Why your vote matters more than ever


The Appalachian Online

Laney Ruckstuhl

Over the past year, The Appalachian has closely followed the constant struggle students have faced with state and local policies and actions that have attempted to impede on their personal, constitutional voting right.

The changes began August 2013, when statewide legislation was enacted to make voter ID a requirement at polling places, meaning that college-issued ID cards would be among identification that will no longer be accepted at polls starting in 2015.

The law also took away same-day registration and the ability to vote out of precinct. This change was originally not supposed to take effect until 2015 either, but the NC Supreme Court ruled Oct. 8 that the changes could be implemented immediately.

With recent victories like the return of the early, one-stop voting site to Plemmons Student Union, some may feel the battle has been won.

Voting is more important now than ever before, but early voting results do not indicate this.

Early voting took place this year from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1. In the last general election of 2012, 15,316 people in Watauga county voted early at one-stop sites, while only 8,238 were cast this year, according to www.carolinatransparency.com’s NC Voter Tracker.

According to an August 2013 article in The Appalachian, the voting site was originally removed from campus due to low turnout.

Immediately after the State BOE ruled the Plemmons Student Union’s Price Lake Room would be a one-stop early voting site on Aug. 22, the NC Supreme Court issued a stay on the lower court, allowing the board to rescind their decision at any point.

“I would hope they would respect the will of the community and the will of students and community members,” said Ian O’Keefe, plaintiff in the case against the State BOE for the site and Appalachian student. “Justice has been served and people of this community will now have a voice and will be able to vote in an accessible location.”

However, not all students seem to be concerned. Only 1,259 of more than 8,000 that voted in Watauga County during the early voting period were college-aged, or 18 to 22 years old, according to www.carolinatransparency.com. This makes up 15.3 percent of Watauga County.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 28.1 percent of Watauga Count residents are enrolled in college.

This population margin is not representing itself this year as it should, though last year’s voter turnout totalled 25.4 percent in the same age range. This now can only be made up for by raising turnout on Election Day itself.

Due to the law making it impossible to vote out of precinct, only students who live in residence halls on the east side of campus will be able to vote at the on-campus election day site, Legends.

Pam Williamson, plaintiff in the case against the State BOE for the site and Watauga Democratic Party member, said the dividing line is Rivers Street. Those outside of this area will have designated sites on election day that vary based on precinct. A list of boundaries and their respective sites can be accessed at www.wataugacounty.org.

The democratic party will be shuttling students to polling sites from the library traffic circle tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., though Williamson said students of any affiliation should utilize the resource.

“Students have to come out tomorrow and show they’re insistent,” Williamson said. “The most important thing is that they show they are a force to be reckoned with.”

As a student body, we must show politicians that we care by casting our votes on election day. This is not an issue of party or affiliation, but of basic constitutional rights.

Before heading to the polls, it is important to educate yourself on candidates and key issues. Special attention should be paid to Board of Elections candidates who will influence decisions in the future.

Though it may seem temporary, you can make history by casting your vote and setting precedents that could change the future of voter suppression for students to come. Do not let your vote go to waste.

Story: Laney Ruckstuhl, News Editor