This piece originally ran in the Daily Tar Heel as a guest editorial on April 1st.
I believe everyone should vote, and I believe voting should be easy and convenient. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the recent direction that we are going in North Carolina. Last year, the N.C. General Assembly severely restricted the ability of residents to vote. It cut the number of days of early voting, limited the ability of out-of-state students to cast ballots and did away with one-stop registration during early voting.
At the same time, local Boards of Elections across the state eliminated early voting sites on and adjacent to university campuses. Watauga County, home of Appalachian State University, has been embroiled in controversy for two years about its early voting sites ever since the Republican-controlled board moved the campus site off-campus last year . In Chapel Hill, we are fortunate that the Orange County Board of Elections included an accessible site for UNC students, faculty and staff by naming UNC Hillel at 201 W. Cameron Ave. a site for the spring primary. It's important that UNC students vote in this election this spring. We need to demonstrate to the Board of Elections the value of this election site, and one way to do that is through high voter turnout. The Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians have U.S. Senate primaries, and there are several Democratic primary local races that will have a major impact on our community further down on the ballot.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners might feel removed for many students at UNC, but their board was responsible for placing a sales tax on the ballot several years ago to support transit that will benefit UNC students in the long term. The board is responsible for setting the budget for our public schools, which has a major impact on undergraduate and graduate students who have children.
I'll be voting at UNC Hillel this spring, and I hope you'll join me. Early voting for the primary runs from April 24 to May 3. The primary is on Tuesday, May 6, the last day of final exams. Remember, the General Assembly did away with one-stop registration and voting this year, so you must register by April 11 to be able to vote in this primary. Paper copies of the voter registration form are available at the circulation desk at Davis Library, or you can access the form from the Orange County or State Board of Elections websites.
If you are already registered in Orange County but have moved, you can change your address during early voting at UNC Hillel.
You've probably heard a lot about the voter ID requirement that was included in voting changes last year. While poll workers may ask you for an ID in 2014, you are not required to provide it until the 2016 election.
If you have questions or need more information about early voting or vote by mail, be sure to visit the Orange County Board of Elections website at http://www.co.orange.nc.us/elect/. Restrictions on the rights of citizens to vote are fundamentally un-American, and the way to combat them is through participation.
I hope you'll join me in voting this year in the May primary.