North Carolina college students are joining the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the US Department of Justice in a challenge to restrictive state voting laws that they argue violate the 26th Amendment. The amendment states that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.”
State legislators in North Carolina passed sweeping voter suppression laws last year, which include creating a strict voter identification law, ending same-day voter registration, cutting down the length of early voting, and eliminating a program that encourages high school students to register to vote before they turn 18. The voter identification law is particularly restrictive for college students because student identification cards (including those issued by state-run universities) and out-of-state driver’s license will not be accepted – although military and veteran identification cards will be.
“There’s an unprecedented effort nationally by Republican-controlled legislatures to restrict the franchise in a way we haven’t seen in a long time” said Marc Elias, the election lawyer bringing the claim. “Young voting in particular is a part of that effort.”
In a hearing today, lawyers in the case will ask a judge to temporarily delay implementation of parts of the law until the court determines whether to uphold or strike down the law in July 2015.
Several other states have passed or attempted to pass voter identification laws, including Texas, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Supporters of these law claim that the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. However, a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, found that voter fraud is extremely rare. These voter suppression laws, however, do disproportionately affect the ability of certain groups to vote, in particular people of color, women, the elderly, and the poor. The Brennan Center found that in addition to students, 25 percent of eligible African-American voters and 18 percent of people aged 65 and up do not have a current government-issued photo ID card. In addition, 34 percent of women voters do not have an ID that reflects their current name.
Media Resources: The New York Times 7/5/14; AP 7/6/14; Brennan Center for Justice; Feminist Newswire 8/16/13, 10/1/13, 5/5/14