North Carolina will begin state-wide early voting on Thursday, and unlike the 2012 presidential election, many students across the state will have no polling place on-campus, making it more difficult for students to exercise their right to vote.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections recently eliminated the only on-campus voting location for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a campus with more than 20,000 students. Students at UNC-Charlotte will now have to travel over a mile, across a dense highway, in order to vote, effectively restricting access for any student without a car.
Jennifer Byrd, who is conducting get out the vote efforts for the Feminist Majority on the Charlotte campus, called the decision unacceptable. “It’s really posing a problem to these young students to get their voices heard,” she told Feminist Newswire. Byrd has announced plans to organize shuttles to take students to off-campus voting sites on Election Day, Tuesday, November 4.
The elimination of on-campus polling places is not unique to UNC-Charlotte. Rulings by the State Board of Elections have also affected Appalachia State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina A&T State University, and Winston-Salem State University. All four campuses have turned out in large numbers for past elections, and have historically favored Democratic candidates.
Robert Iffergan, also with the Feminist Majority, feels the elimination of the on-campus polls will have negative effects on the election. “By eliminating on-campus voting,” he said, “we’re eliminating diversity in the vote.”
Voting rights advocates have criticized the closing of on-campus voting sites as politically motivated. “When it seems like a county board would rather open a polling site on the moon than on campus to serve students and faculty, you have to wonder about the motivations,” said Allison Riggs, a voting rights attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
Her sentiments were echoed by Bob Phillips, state director of voting rights group Common Cause. “It makes one think there are other reasons for this that have to do more with politics than, again, the goal of making voting easy and accessible for everybody,” he said.
Click here for more information about voting in your state.
Media Resources: Feminist Majority; Fox 46 Carolinas 10/16/14; WRAL at NC Capitol 5/25/14; FeministCampus.org