Intentionally disenfranchising students (and others)

Jason Baker's picture

It’s about to get a lot harder to vote in Orange County, at least for some of us.

The Republican majority in the General Assembly clearly feels that the racist, anti-woman, anti-urban, and very anti-liberal redistricting which took place last year didn’t do enough to solidify their entrenched majority. Now they’re hard at work systematically disenfranchising people who are unlikely to vote for them. Stringent voter identification requirements, shortened early voting, and other impediments to voting have been proposed in the General Assembly and are all likely to pass.

But of particular note to us in Orange County is the aptly-numbered Senate Bill 666. The most significant change in SB 666 isn’t in chapter 163 which governs elections; rather, it’s a change to the tax code:

Personal Exemption. – In calculating North Carolina taxable income, a taxpayer may deduct an exemption amount equal to the amount listed in the table below based on the taxpayer's filing status and adjusted gross income. The taxpayer is allowed the same personal exemptions allowed under section 151(b) of the Code for the taxable year. The taxpayer is allowed an exemption amount for each qualifying child, as provided by section 151(c) of the Code for the taxable year, unless the qualifying child has changed their principal place of abode from that of the taxpayer as indicated by the qualifying child's voter registration.

In other words, parents living in North Carolina whose son or daughter registers to vote in the city where they go to college may not claim them as a dependent. Should it pass, SB 666 would prevent literally thousands of young voters in Chapel Hill and Carrboro from participating in local elections in the cities where they actually reside, and would erode decades of work to enfranchise local college students. Given the close outcomes in some recent municipal elections in Orange County, and the huge role that Orange County plays in offsetting conservative votes in other counties throughout the state, such a substantial shift in our electorate certainly has the potential to be extremely detrimental to progressive causes here. A petition is out there for you to sign, but I suspect our local representatives are already on the right side of this one.

Also of note to local elections, our Orange County Board of Elections, which has seen a Democratic majority for all of recent memory, is about to flip to a Republican majority as a side effect of Governor McCrory's election last fall. The county boards of elections are appointed by the NC State Board of Elections, which is itself appointed by the governor. Though by statute they must contain representatives of both parties, this change is likely to bring new challenges to our efforts to make voting easier for students and disadvantaged communities locally.

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26 Comments

Suppression

As a recently-graduated student who attended UNC for four years, this is is ridiculous.  Yes, I registered in 2008 to vote in Orange County for several reasons, including for local elections, better accessibility and I enjoyed voting with my friends together at Morehead Planetarium.  Not only that, but being claimed as a dependent (which I was) was essential to my family filing taxes correctly, so had this bill been law back then, I would've not registered here in Orange County or Durham County, just so my parents could rightfully claim me on their taxes.  The NCGOP is out to completely remove all of the out-of-state students from the political conversation, many of which go on to stay here and live in NC after graduation.

Appalling.

Making lemonade

It's a despicable law, along with the many others, but on this one, I think there may be some lemonade. From the last election, we know that young voters are more liberal than the current state house denizens. So if more of them vote in their home counties/districts, rather than here in Orange County, they might actually be able to bring sanity back to state government. Their votes here in Orange County just pile on those of the permanent residents. Wasn't it you, Jason, who always went home to vote for this very reason?

Jason Baker's picture

I wish I shared your optimism

If every student who voted here ended up voting at home, I don't think it would be such an issue at the state level (though it would be a big shift locally). In fact, I'd be happy for students to vote at home if they were doing so by choice, and perhaps they might knock some of these vile conservatives out of office. But eliminating the option for students to vote locally will have a much greater impact on suppressing turnout than it will on shifting the electorate to another part of the state. While you and I might take it for granted that we might need to research when the absentee voting period occurs and how to get a ballot substantially before Election Day, many first-time voters would not. If there's anything that years of working on Get Out The Vote campaigns has taught me, it's that a huge swath of citizens don't know anything about the rules around voting, and are easily discouraged if it's not made incredibly easy for them.Since you mentioned it, I did register and vote in the 11th congressional district where my mom lives for one election cycle after I went off to college, in 2004, because I was actively working for a congressional campaign there at the time (it's where Erin and I met) and I wanted my vote to make a bigger impact in a much closer race. I would suspect the college students who are campaign staff or volunteers in their home districts are probably not the ones we need to be concerned about if this bill passes.

Changing registration mid-year

Jason,

If there is a primary and a general election, wouldn't it be possible to change your registration between the two?  If that is possible, do you know how that would figure in this bill?  For example if you were registered in your home district for the May primary - whether you voted or not - and then moved your registration to where you attend school for the general election.  Does the bill specifiy when you have to be registered at home to be considered a dependent? 

Linda

Making lemonade

Jason, thank you.

Me too, Ruby. 

And Terri, about the lemonade with respect to this and other oppressive bills:  What some members of the General Assembly are failing to understand is the vibrant grass roots activism that has emerged in recent years. Citizens, especially the young, will see what needs to be done to enfranchise voters, way before any election, and do it.  

An opportunity to speak out

This is an opportunity to speak out speak out.  Though it is a photo ID hearing, once you're up there in front of the legislators, media, and public you have 3 minutes to speak out against voter suppression and manipulation of all types including this student targeted stuff that will disproportionately affect Orange County.

http://www.ncleg.net/Applications/RTS/hce.aspx"Public comments will be taken on April 10, 2013 beginning at 4:00 p.m. in Room 643 of the Legislative Office Building."

If the online sign up fills up, you can sign up to speak in person at the table just outside of the hearing. That's how I and many others got a chance to speak last time. It'd be nice if they gave the public more than a week's notice, or had it not during a workday, but asking for an accessible hearing about efforts to make voting less accessible is probably too much to hope for.

Nobody is being disenfranchised

As I read thru these posts, all I can do is shake my head.  FYI:  Nobody is being disenfranchised or suppressed from voting.  Anybody who wants to vote, CAN.  They just need to vote in the county of their permanent residence.  As a "local", I don't appreciate several thousand young adults voting in local elections or on local issues, only at the end of their college years, they leave us locals to deal with what they have voted for and/or against.  Requesting absentee ballots from their "home town" is not disenfranchising anyone.

gercohen's picture

Other categories

 1) you know that the census, on which political representation and various state an federal funding allocations are based on count EVERY student as a resident at their school year address, right? 2) you know that students pay local sales taxes and if they live off campus property tax through their rent right? You proposing to exempt them?3) should medical residents who are likely here just two years also vote at their parents address?4) how about new fixed term faculty lecturers? Vote with their parents?  5) the number of on campus undergrad students who vote in odd numbered year town elections is miniscule 6) the one real local issue that undergrad students voting in a local election ACTUALLY made a difference in was the 1974 special transit tax election that approved the creation if Chapel Hill Transit. Was that a bad decision that townies somehow have suffered from?  The May 1971 transit referendum was defeated, that was 60 days before the votin age was lowers, six months before the one year residency requirement was struck down, and less than a year before the state Supreme Court said college students could vote in their college town7) it's my observation after 40+ years of student voting in Chapel Hill that most student voters are graduate and professional students. They should be voting with their parents?8) my kids voted at my address through undergrad. My son finally registered at his college address in grad school. That was bad?  He voted absentee at my address while an undergrad including Raleigh municipal and school board elections and he was only in Raleigh 60 days a year. He knew nothing about Raleigh issues. This was right?  He knew far more and was much more affected by decisions in the town he attended college in

Just my reply

Per the Census website on definition of residence.  Note the last sentence where they have indicated that the 2010 Census count was counted "not necessarily the same as the person's voting residence or legal residence.". : Definition: In Census 2010, people were counted at their "usual residence", a principle followed in each census since 1790. Usual residence has been defined as the place where the person lives and sleeps most of the time. This place is not necessarily the same as the person's voting residence or legal residence.  From the NC General Statutes - (Election Laws) Chapter 163.  If people (young adults included) move to this county "with intent to stay", then yes, they can claim this to be their legal residence (and no longer with mom and dad).§ 163-57. Residence defined for registration and voting. All election officials in determining the residence of a person offering to register or vote, shall be governed by the following rules, so far as they may apply: (1) That place shall be considered the residence of a person in which that person's habitation is fixed, and to which, whenever that person is absent, that person has the intention of returning. a. In the event that a person's habitation is divided by a State, county, municipal, precinct, ward, or other election district, then the location of the bedroom or usual sleeping area for that person with respect to the location of the boundary line at issue shall be controlling as the residency of that person.  (11) So long as a student intends to make the student's home in the community where the student is physically present for the purpose of attending school while the student is attending school and has no intent to return to the student's former home after graduation, the student may claim the college community as the student's domicile. The student need not also intend to stay in the college community beyond graduation in order to establish domicile there.

Geoff Green's picture

the big question is

Who the heck knows where they're gong to live after graduation? I grew up in Florida. I went to undergrad at Duke. I had no intention of moving back to Florida. Why shouldn't I be allowed to vote in the state and county in which I'm planning to live for four years, and in which I have probably a better chance of remaining than anywhere else.One of the reasons why concepts of "residence" and "domicile" are so undefined and flexible is because it's really hard to make a firm definition that doesn't exclude a lot of edge cases. The assumption that one's "domicile" must be where one's parents live and where the student might spend anywhere from 0 to 13 weeks a year, versus the place where you spend 39 weeks or more, is silly. And it also disregards the fact that many students spend a whole lot of time involved and invested in the communities in which they are spending these 4+ years. Of course they should vote where they live and go to school and work and volunteer and spend money, and not in a place where their parents happen to live.But perhaps we could compromise. Let students vote in 2 places. They get 3/5 of a vote in their home county, and 2/5 of a vote in the country where they live. We can call it the North Carolina compromise.

But Bill 666 is contrary to this

Danelle, you posted the definition of voting residence from NC statute. Isn't the proposed bill running counter to this? The NC Statute states that students can vote in their college community if they intend to stay there. But 666 would prevent parents from claiming students as dependents if they vote at college. This is incompatible. There are students who plan to stay in their college communities and who are still dependents. 

gercohen's picture

changed in 1950

Danelle you can quote from selected passages from Census webpages all you like, but in fact beginning with the 1950 census students were counted in their college town, not at their parents home, so it has NOT been unchanged since 1790. Beginning in 1950, for redistricting for US House State Senate and State House students were counted at their college address. State allocations for road maintenance to cities and towns are based 50% on the census population. Allocation of beer and win taxes are 100% based on census population. Many other grant funding formulas are also based on this.

Gercohen, you implied that

Gercohen, you implied that the census counted every student as a resident.  My quote, was only what the census actually says regarding residence.  And my other "quote" is what the State Board of Elections defines as residence.   There have been other "local" issues more recent than the ones you speak of that affect "all of the Orange County residence":  ask those in the northern part of YOUR county what benefit they get from the recent transit tax.  CH/Carr residents benefit greatly. 

gercohen's picture

Again and again

Danelle I said the 1974 vote was the only referendum that the students tipped. The transit referendum in 2012 was NOT decided based on the student vote. I am sorry northern orange feels it gets no benefit from the transit tax. I lived in orange 16 years without having a child in the school system. Why was I allowed to vote for school board?  And why did I have to pay the school supplemental property tax? And I didn't just imply the census counts students as residents, in fact they do

In regards to the census and

In regards to the census and residency, in the above comment you stated, "EVERY student as a resident at their school year address".  Are you saying they were or were not "residents" when counted by the census?  Because it appeared that you were implying that even the census considers students as residents.  If this is not what you implied, my apologies.  Election laws have nothing to do with who pays school tax (take up that discussion another time).And I do not have access to the historical election knowlege that I know you have, as you have been politically active for many, many years.  I think we should probably just "agree to disagree". 

This measure isn't in isolation

Restricting early voting, ending Sunday voting, enforcing photo ID requirements, and ending same day registration all added up really start to look like politicians trying to pick their voters, rather than letting voters pick their representatives. I've known a lot of students who use early voting and same day registration to participate in our democracy for the first time.  Take those away, and poll tax their parents if they vote at college, and it's clear what's going on here.

Barbara Crockett's picture

Non partisan issue

First of all, my college age child attends school out of state and is registered to vote in Chapel Hill. This child chose to vote via absentee ballot during the last election because there was a chance NC might once again be one of the few, if not only, former confederate state to vote for Obama. (How to say that without sounding unhelpfully aggressive on the Internet....?) Will this law affect my child's behavior? Unlikely for now. That said.... college students are an unusal class of voters because unlike the majority of us, this is their first time voting. We make them go to civics classes in HS so that they will appreciate that with the freedom of democracy comes the responsibility of particpating at the voting booth. This law does not promote that. Let's stop gerrymandering in NC and make redistricting apolitical (Sorry Dems, but NC would remain a red state). Let's let everyone vote wherever he or she resides - including at college. Let's let parents rightfully claim college age students as dependents on their state income taxes. Some issues should not be republican or democrat.

gercohen's picture

Voting age was 21 back in the day

I graduated from Carolina two weeks after I turned 21, the voting age was 21 then. If I was five days older I would have registered to vote in Orange County to catch the May 1971 Chapel Hill election. It was in May back then. Voting age changed to 18 between graduation and start of grad school that Fall (1971) -- I registered to vote in Orange County a few days after grad school started. In May 1971 there were a grand total of two dorm residents registered to vote in Chapel Hill who voted in the municipal election.

Out of State students

Most of the discussion has centered on students within North Carolina. But wouldn't this also apply to students from North Carolina who go to school out of state? It seems to me that this bill is even more of a disincentive to voting for them. Requesting an absentee ballot becomes harder. Actually following the campaigns and issues become harder.

A bit of a rant, but it needs to be said

I graduated from UNC-CH in 2012, and I voted in the 2008/12 General Elections there, the 2010 Mid-terms and local elections in between.  I registered in Orange County when I moved to Chapel Hill as a freshman, and now have continued to live, work and contribute to the local CH/Durham community as a young adult.  Legally, at 23, my parents can claim me as a dependent until I turn 24, and I can file taxes as one as well.  Just because I am considered a dependent does not mean that I should not be able to vote for my local representatives.  Furthermore, I took this opportunity to actually get involved in my community at the local level by having the privilege of serving on the Town of Chapel Hill Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board for a 3 year term.  This bill would curtail and hinder my involvement as a citizen in Chapel Hill and Durham, and punish my parents financially for doing so.  The right to vote where you live should not be qualified by what party comes after your name or by which party is in control.  It is a human and social rights issue, and the NC GOP is systematically alienating voters piece by piece.  This is just another way in which to do so.  The Tillis/Berger/McCrory triumphirate will continue to do this until stopped by respectful resistance.  This comes from 1) an Independent, 2) someone who actually believed that McCrory would be a great "moderate" governor as he had been as mayor and 3) a recent graduate who wants to participate in my community without my parents being punished for it.

UNC students & others arrested this week

http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/04/29/2859057/17-arrested-outside-nc-se...

"RALEIGH — Saying they could stay silent no longer, a group of protesters shouted “we fight” outside the N.C. Senate chamber in an act of civil disobedience that led to 17 arrests."

 http://projects.newsobserver.com/under_the_dome/protest_on_jones_street

"About 100 students, advocates for workers' rights, immigrants' rights and others protested in front of the Legislative Building on Wednesday.This follows a Monday night protest at the Legislative Building where 17 people were arrested.Wednesday's group marched from the edge of N.C. State's campus to Jones Street carrying banners condemning tuition increases, budget cuts and legislative proposals such as a voter ID law."

http://studentpowernc.org/2013/05/statement-from-five-students-arrested-outside-the-nc-general-assembly-today/That link has videos of students, including 2 from UNC, explaining why they got arrested today.  I don't know if there is any way to embed videos on Orange Politics, but that first video is particularly powerful and I hope people wil check it out.