College Dems respond to legislative proposals with 'I Vote' effort
by Anna Oakes
The College Democrats at Appalachian State University on Wednesday kicked off an "I Vote" campaign to generate awareness about voting rights and combat several voting proposals included in Republican-sponsored bills this state legislative session.
Several bills, including Senate bills 666 and 667, would alter election laws by reducing the early voting period, eliminating same-day voter registration during the early voting period and barring parents from listing children as dependents for tax deductions if the children register to vote at a different address. A voter ID requirement has also been proposed.
College Democrats, with support from the Watauga County Democratic Party, have characterized the proposals as a "war on students."
"This fight is bigger than a political party; this is a movement that encompasses just about everyone on this campus," said Mollie Clawson, president of the College Democrats. "They don't quite like how we cast our ballots, and they think their power gives them the right to take that right away from us.
"The voters pick the politicians; the politicians don't pick the voters," she said.
Stella Anderson, a Democrat and chairwoman of the Watauga County Board of Elections, said more than 40 percent of Watauga County voters are 18- to 29-year-olds, and most are Boone or ASU residents.
Among this age group, the numbers of registered Republicans, Democrats and independents are distributed fairly evenly, she said.
"This isn't a partisan issue. It's a voting rights issue," Anderson said.
Anderson also noted that in June the majority of appointments on the county board of elections will shift to the Republicans, and she said Republicans could choose to eliminate poll locations from the ASU campus.
A number of local Democratic elected officials also spoke at the conference.
"You walk on sidewalks, you drive on streets, you use town water, you recycle with the town and you pay sales tax in Boone," said Boone Town Councilman Andy Ball. "ASU students are a vital part of this community, and the town of Boone is committed to preserving your right to participate in ... the electoral process."
Watauga County Commissioner Billy Kennedy said, "Vote these people out and put people in who believe in the right to vote."
Ian O'Keefe, an ASU student and field director for the county Democratic Party, said the "I Vote" campaign will include a photo shoot, "which will put a face and name to people affected by the discriminatory practices that are being developed by the Republicans in Raleigh.
"The student voice is not to be taken lightly," he said.
Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone is a co-sponsor of S666 and S667.
Although Soucek noted that he is cautious about any action that would cause students to be disenfranchised or disinterested about politics, he said college students' ability to vote in communities other than where their driver licenses, vehicle registrations and other aspects of their lives are based is a privilege not afforded to other groups.