Following a U.S. Supreme Court decision late last month, North Carolina’s controversial voter identification law will not be in effect in the 2016 election. This comes after the Supreme Court voted in a 4-4 decision not to place a hold on an earlier federal appeals court ruling that called the law unconstitutional.
The law would have required voters to show a North Carolina or federally issued ID, such as a North Carolina driver’s license or a passport. Jason Husser, assistant professor of political science and policy studies at Elon University and director of the Elon University Poll, said many college students don’t readily have those kinds of documentation.
“Voter ID was an impediment to many college students, particularly those that didn’t have a license one way or another,” Husser said.
The law could have particularly affected out-of-state students choosing to vote in North Carolina because IDs from other states , such as driver’s licenses, would have only been accepted if the student registered to vote within 90 days of the election. Voters that didn’t have proper identification would have had to cast a provisional ballot.
Because the Supreme Court declined to place a hold on the ruling, registered voters can vote without the specified identification.
The appeals’ court decision said that the law, passed through a Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Republican Gov.Pat McCrory, targeted minorities, a group that typically votes for the Democratic nominee, because they were less likely to have the proper type of identification than white citizens.
While opponents say the law was meant to suppress minority voters, senior Josh Fritz, vice president of Elon’s College Republicans, said the law was meant to combat voter fraud, not stop minorities from voting.
“That [the law is racist] is ridiculous,” Fritz said. “The entire thing was that if you didn’t have an ID coming in, it didn’t matter who you were, what you were, you could have the entire nation of Puerto Rico voting and you’d have absolutely no idea. It’s not a racial thing.”
But senior Sam Hird, president of the Elon’s College Democrats, said Republicans were making a clear effort to stop minorities from voting, and he agrees with the decision to overturn the law.
“It was absolutely the right decision,” Hird said. “It was quite clear in the legislation and as the court of appeals ruled, it hoped to systematically disenfranchise the African American population that votes overwhelmingly Democratic.”
He also said voting rights is an issue that should extend beyond party lines.
“This isn’t about Republicans and Democrats,” Hird said. “I want everyone who is a citizen of the United States and a resident of North Carolina to have the right to vote.”
Though voter ID laws would have impacted college-aged voters, there are more important reasons they don’t vote at the same rate as other generations, according to Husser.
“College students do face other obstacles about voting, such as that they’re not really rooted psychologically in a community — they see themselves as more transient members of the community,” Husser said. “They’re only going to be in college for, say, four years, and so they may not be psychologically invested in the community as someone who’s paying taxes. That actually makes it harder to vote than a legal impediment.
“So in many ways, the emotional impediments for college students to vote can be greater than the physical impediments.”