Throughout the year, Republicans have been arguing that their new voting laws aren’t meant to disenfranchise anybody. They are just trying to prevent fraud. Unfortunately, their actions tell another story and it’s not pretty in a state that used voter suppression as a tool throughout most of the 20th century.
The latest debacle is in Watauga County where well-organized Democrats have been able to beat back Republicans in a county surrounded by a sea of dark red. The GOP-controlled board of elections there eliminated the early voting site on Appalachian State University campus. Democrats have been fighting the move and since the lone Democrat on the three member board opposed it, early voting sites had to be approved by the State Board of Elections and, yesterday, the Board approved the move.
The Democrat on the Watauga board pointed out that more than 60% of voters live in Boone. In addition, students are less likely to have transportation, so making voting more accessible would increase participation. The Republicans on the board never came up with a good reason to move the site but it sure looks like they don’t want students to vote.
Republicans have done the same thing in Chapel Hill. They moved an early voting site off campus. Luckily, they reached a compromise and moved to a place still accessible to students. But the concept is the same. Don’t make voting easy for people who are likely to vote against the GOP majority.
It’s a sorry state of affairs when the Board responsible for overseeing voting has an agenda of making ballot access as difficult as possible for one segment of the population. Democrats would be wise to make sure young people know that the GOP would prefer they don’t vote.
Republicans can scream about voter fraud all they want but shortening the length of time for early voting and moving sites away from places that young people votes belies their true intentions. The GOP quite clearly wants to reduce the number of African-Americans and young people who go to the polls. It’s such a short-sighted strategy. Those young people will get older and African-American will continue to make up a substantial part of the electorate. And the GOP will only be able to hold power when they can restricted democracy. So much for the battle of ideas.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >