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.