Students walk on campus in between classes at East Carolina University on Tuesday, April 9, 2013. (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily Reflector)
By Katherine Ayers
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
A bill being debated in the N.C. Senate would require in-state university students to either vote using their permanent addresses or force their parents to lose the student as an exemption on the parents’ state taxes.
Senate Bill 667, called the “Equalize Voter Rights” bill, means that East Carolina University students can no longer use their local addresses to vote if their parents want to continue to claim them as state tax exemptions. According to the bill’s text, students must cancel their local voter registrations within 30 days of receiving notification from the Pitt County Board of Elections and re-register using their parents’ addresses.
The bill also requires that if a voter owns a motor vehicle, it must be registered at the same address as the voting address within 60 days. The vehicle also shall be subject to local property tax in the jurisdiction it is registered.
Sen. Bill Cook, who sponsored the bill along with Sens. Ron Rabin and Norman Sanderson, said the bill is an attempt to “level the playing field” for all voters.
“I just don’t think it’s right, particularly when they vote at school at a temporary address and skew the election, then go home,” he said. “They don’t own property or pay taxes, so they have no skin in the game, and I just don’t think it’s fair to other voters.”
If college students want to vote locally, then they should become independent of their parents, Cook said.
“If guy goes to work instead of to college, he’s got to vote where he lives, not at (his parents’) home,” the senator said. “If they’re adult enough to pay taxes and live on a permanent basis where they’re going to school, I have no problem with them getting to vote.”
ECU Student Government Association President Matt Paske said students at ECU are thinking about the effect the bill could have on them.
“Our slogan at ECU is ‘to serve,’ so we’re very invested in our community,” he said. “To take us from the general population in voting does us a disservice.”
Tim Schwan, ECU’s SGA president-elect, said the important thing is that students are voting, no matter where they cast their ballots.
“Voters that start young will continue to vote,” he said. “I don’t know who wouldn’t want that.”
Uriah Ward, president of the ECU College Democrats, said the bill is an attempt to make it easier for one side to win an election.
“It’s a shame they’re trying to make it harder to vote rather than trying to win over (our) vote,” he said. “When you go to college, you become a member of the community. When you’re there a majority of the year, it makes sense to vote there.”
Ward said the bill sends a message to students that voting “is not for you.”
“If we really want students to vote, we need to make it as easy as possible,” he said. “The more people we have voting, the more accurate the elections are to sentiment of general public.”
ECU College Republicans Chairman Brian Holloman said he glanced quickly at the bill, and it seems to be focused on closing tax loopholes, but he could see how it might decrease college voter turnout.
“Most students can’t get back home as easily as they can (vote) on campus,” he said. “But they can vote absentee.”
Holloman said the state has bigger things to worry about than this bill.
“We’re better off spending time worrying about getting our economy back on track,” he said. “Governor McCrory released his (budget) bill recently; the economy needs to be the No. 1 priority.”
Contact Katherine Ayers at firstname.lastname@example.org and 252-329-9567. Follow her on Twitter @KatieAyersGDR.
via The Daily Reflector.