By Daniel Schwindt, News Editor
Many North Carolina voters may face a shock when they next go to the polls. Republican state legislators have proposed three bills that restrict access to the voting ballot by adding additional fees on the parents of college students who register to vote in a county that is not where their home address is located and by requiring photo identification to vote.
The first bill, SB 667, which affects North Carolina residents and has caused a great deal of controversy. The bill states that "If the voter is a dependent of the voter's parent or legal guardian, is 18 years of age or older and the voter has registered at an address other than that of the parent or legal guardian, the parent or legal guardian will not be allowed to claim the voter as a dependent for state income tax purposes."
The exemptions given to North Carolina parents is worth anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500, and if the law is passed, these parents would face an increase in their taxes. According to an article published by the Huffington Post April 5, "Republican sponsors have defended their push to reform voting laws as a way to save money."
They also report that "the conservative-backed Voter Integrity Project of NC hailed the college voting restrictions as a way to 'shift the landscape of college town voting.'"
Sophomore Laura Jurotich, a resident of Alabama who is registered to vote in Forsyth County, feels that the college voter law is dangerous. "I think it is silly. Just because I'm not living in the same county as my parents doesn't mean I am not still dependent on them," Jurotich said.
Sophomore Brandon West, a state resident registered in Forsyth County despite his parents living elsewhere in the state, finds the move by the GOP to be an affront to democracy.
"This is nothing less than an attempt to hinder voting by liberal college students, the same voters who the GOP knows will not vote for their candidates or measures," West said.
The two photo ID bills, HB 253 and SB 235, are designed to "act to guarantee that no registered voter is denied the right to vote at an approved polling site; and to prevent the unauthorized use of a registered voter's voting privilege through the fraudulent misuse of a registered voter's identity."
When asked about this bill, State Representative Kelly Alexander Jr., who represents State District 107 in Charlotte, said he was opposed to voter ID legislation due to its discriminatory nature, but also said the more forms and greater variety of ID's allowed is a step in the right direction. The bill proposed nine different options for voter identification.
While these bills have gained prominence recently, they first arose during the Bush administration.
According to John Dinan, professor of politics and international affairs, a private Commission on Federal Election Reform chaired by form President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of State James Baker issued a 2005 report urging states to adopt a photo-ID requirement.
Dinan explained the rationale behind this proposed legislation "as a way of boosting public confidence in the integrity of the voting process."
Supporters of stricter voter ID regulation feel voter ID laws would discourage voter fraud and protect the integrity of the voting system. Those against voter ID laws argue that voter fraud is rare and that requiring a photo ID would discourage voting among older adults, college students and the poor, who might not have to means to obtain a valid photo ID.
According to a study done by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School around 11 percent of U.S. citizens, or roughly 21 million citizens don't have government-issued photo ID and this figure only represents currently eligible voters, not all likely voters.
The study also found that those who lack valid ID tended to be young people, Hispanics and the poor. Sophomore Christopher Jerome agrees that the laws would hurt the poor. "Some people of the lower socio-economic group don't have licenses. What are you going to do with those people who are citizens but who don't have photo IDs? With these laws, their voices won't be heard," Jerome said.
According to Alexander, voter fraud is "statistically insignificant."
A New York Times analysis from 2007 identified 120 cases filed by the Justice Department over five years, which resulted in 86 convictions.
The consequences of these laws could be critical to the outcomes of future elections in North Carolina. Even though North Carolina overall voted for Romney, he won by less than 2 percent, a surmountable margin.
If voter ID legislation is passed, the 600,000 eligible voters that may be affected by these new laws may swing elections. The effects of these laws on the outcome in Forsyth County, which voted for Obama in 2012, could be even larger come 2016 because of the number of students who could be affected.