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Originally published: 2013-04-04 18:42:17
Last modified: 2013-04-10 17:08:20

NC legislation targets college voters

by Anna Oakes

Bills filed in the N.C. Senate Tuesday and co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone could impact college students who choose to vote where they attend school.

Senate Bills 666 and 667 include measures that would bar parents from listing their children as dependents on state tax forms if the children register to vote at a different address. The state generally grants tax deductions ranging from $2,000 to $2,500 per child dependent.

"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," according to Senate Bill 667, short-titled "Equalize Voter Rights."

The legislation could have a significant impact in areas such as Watauga County, where the number of students enrolled at Appalachian State University represents more than a third of the county's total population.

Of the 27,885 ballots cast in Watauga County in the November 2012 general election, 7,745 -- or 28 percent -- were 18- to 24-year-olds, according to the Watauga County Elections Office.

Soucek did not return calls and an email seeking comment as of presstime Thursday.

Mollie Clawson, president of the ASU College Democrats, said the club has very strong feelings about the proposal.

"We feel that this legislation is a violation of our rights, not only as students, but as citizens," Clawson said. "We live in and support this community, therefore we should be able to vote for representatives who have our best interests at heart."

Clawson said the bill would put a lot of pressure on students and their families.

"With many families facing tough financial decisions, a student may have to choose between voting where they live or helping their families with a tax break," she said. "It is wrong to force parents and students to make this decision."

In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students have the right to register and vote at their college address.

Senate Bill 666, "Election Law Changes," is an omnibus bill that includes the voter registration measure, as well as other election-related changes, including the elimination of same-day voter registration during the early voting period, reducing the early voting period to 10 days and the elimination of satellite early voting sites.