In the build-up to the presidential election this November, federal appeals courts struck down voter ID laws in several states — including Wisconsin, Texas and North Carolina — on the grounds that they were in direct violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and especially targeted minority and traditionally Democratic voters, preventing some from voting or even going to the polls. North Carolina’s former voter ID law, which went into effect in 2013, mandated that voters present state-issued photo identification at the polls, shortened the period to cast early ballots by a week and eliminated pre-registration and same-day registration for students who turned 18 on Election Day. Three years later, that’s no longer true. College students who believed that the former law disenfranchised young people welcomed the change. “My first thought after hearing the news was ‘thank God,’ but that relief came too soon,” says Jackson Dellinger, a North Carolina native and sophomore at Duke University.
Dellinger belongs to the Durham and Regional Affairs Committee at Duke, which has expressed disappointment with state legislature, secured an on-campus early voting site and conducted registration drives in an effort to politically engage and inform other college students. “Recognizing these ID laws as problematic is a step in the right direction, but they are just one manifestation of a larger problem,” Dellinger says. “Politicians, at least the ones in North Carolina who championed these laws, are afraid of a fair fight.”
Republican politicians who supported the original law say its restrictions were meant to prevent rampant voter fraud, The New York Times reported. In the 83-page decision that struck down the law, judges claimed such restrictions “impose cures for problems that did not exist.”
Dellinger says he believes that the law created — rather than remedied — problems with voting. He said North Carolina’s ID law created a hostile political environment for his peers, many of whom are first-time or out-of-state voters. Students who cannot use an out-of-state driver’s license or ID must keep a passport in a college dorm room. Additionally, without the ability to vote on campus, many students may have to pay for transportation like Uber in order to make it to the polls before they close.