Following the passage of HB589 (Voter ID if your listening to GOP messaging) local, Republican led, county boards of election have begun to move hard and aggressively against college age voters. Forsyth County Board of Elections Chairman Ken Raymond has already signaled that he intends to shut down the early polling site at the Anderson Center on the campus of Winston-Salem State University. The Watauga County Board of Elections moved to shut down the site at Appalachian State University, and the Pasquotank County Board of Elections on Tuesday barred an Elizabeth City State University student from running for City Council claiming that his on campus address could not be used to establish residency. After that move, the head of the county’s Republican Party said he plans to challenge the voter registrations of more students at the historically black university ahead of upcoming elections.
Voting rights advocates are saying that these actions could signal a statewide effort by GOP-controlled elections boards to discourage turnout among young voters considered more likely to support Democrats.
In a raucous meeting on Monday the GOP majority on the Watauga elections board voted over the objection of the board’s lone Democrat to eliminate early voting at the Appalachian State student union. The Watauga BOE then voted 2-1 to combine the three Boone voting precincts into one, eliminating an election day polling site on campus. More than 9,300 Boone residents will now be slated to cast ballots at a county building that only has about 35 parking spots.
In the Pasquotank County, county GOP chairman Pete Gilbert challenged the residency of Montravias King, a senior at the historically black college who has been registered to vote in the county since coming to Elizabeth City in 2009. King has said he plans to stay after his 2014 graduation. Mr. King, who lives in an on-campus dorm, filed to run for a seat on the city council representing the ward that includes the campus.
According to the Associated Press, Gilbert cited the wording of state law requiring voters to be registered at their “permanent” domicile. He argued a dorm room occupied for only part of the year is a temporary residence. The GOP controlled elections board agreed, voting 2-1 to bar King from the ballot.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Gilbert inidcated that he plans to challenge the residency of more students using campus addresses to register to vote. He said he would urge his counterparts living in college towns across the state to do the same. “I plan to take this show on the road,” Gilbert said seeming nearly giddy at the prospect of blocking college students from voting.
In Winston-Salem, new Chairman Ken Raymond has already embroiled the Board of Elections in controversy when the Republican majority Board refused to allow the City to pay for two early voting polling sites (one in City Councilman Robert Clark’s(R) district and one in City Councilman Derwin Montgomery’s(D)). In an interview with the Winston-Salem Chronicle Raymond telegraphed his intention to go after Winston-Salem State. He is claiming that he “knows” voter fraud is going on there because he worked as a poll observer there for the Republican Party and claims that he witnessed fraud first hand.
Much like Raymond’s contention during his first BOE meeting that the County Board would pay for the 2013 elections (they don’t and that isn’t how the system works), Raymond made a dubious claim to the Chronicle about student voting at WSSU.
Mr. Raymond told the Chronicle:
“Some of the students that came in and voted talked openly about receiving extra credit for voting. This isn’t something that someone told me … I heard it myself. They talked as if they didn’t know they were doing something wrong. But it is wrong – in fact it’s a felony,”
The fact is that it is NOT a felony to offer students extra credit for voting and it has been a part of college government and civics classes for decades. Had the professor’s ordered the students to vote a particular way it would be distasteful, but still not rise to the level of a felony. Like many claims made by Raymond this one turns out to be wrong as well. Board member Flemming El-Amin, a Democrat, contends that Raymond is simply trying to suppress the WSSU vote which tends to lean toward Democrats… a contention which seems to be getting ready to play out across North Carolina’s colleges.
You can read the rest of the Chronicles interview HERE.