Our View: Opposing students’ college-town voting no way to help ECSU

The Daily Advance

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State Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, and members of the 4th Ward Quality of Life Community Organization resurrected the idea of limiting student voting in Elizabeth City elections.

Opposing college-town voting by ECSU students is not a smart way to attract students to the campus.

For self-described supporters of Elizabeth City State University, state Rep. Bob Steinburg and members of the 4th Ward Quality of Life Community Organization sure have a strange way of showing it.

Last week both the lawmaker and prominent members of the Elizabeth City community group trumpeted, yet again, the thoroughly discredited idea of barring ECSU students from voting in city elections, devoting a good portion of the group’s monthly meeting to it.

Steinburg, R-Chowan, and Quality of Life members, including Lena Hill-Lawrence and Anthony Sharp, said they had no problem with ECSU students voting — just that they not do it in Elizabeth City. They believe ECSU students should vote in their hometowns, not in the place where they’re attending college.

Steinburg, Hill-Lawrence and Sharp trotted out all the condescending tropes against student voting in college towns: that student voters don’t know who or what they’re voting for; that students, through their votes, can have lasting impact on communities they may leave after only a few years; and that students, because they aren’t familiar with the issues or candidates on the ballot, can be easily manipulated into voting for candidates or causes that “informed voters” would never support.

These kinds of arguments have been around for as long as 18-year-olds have had the right to vote — and they’ve fallen on deaf ears since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that college students have the right to vote in the communities in which they attend college.

Despite the fact this has been settled law now for more than three decades, efforts to eliminate, and failing that, curb student voting continue. We had our own effort here in Pasquotank County just two years ago, when the elections board ruled an ECSU student wasn’t eligible to run for City Council because he lived in a student dorm. Opponents to students’ college-town voting should have gotten a realty check when the State Board of Elections unanimously overruled the local elections board and allowed the student to run for council. But given the discussion at last week’s 4th Ward Quality of Life meeting, that doesn’t appear to have happened.

Steinburg and Sharp even went so far as to spread disinformation — that students choosing to vote at ECSU were costing their parents or guardians more in taxes, claiming it’s illegal to claim a student as a dependent if that student registers to vote somewhere different from where the parent or guardian pays taxes. As an official at the State Board of Elections pointed out, this is not the case. Where a student registers to vote has no tax implications whatsoever for their parent or guardian.

We’re not surprised Steinburg would be engaged in discussions about suppressing student voting. After all, he voted along with his Republican colleagues for legislation two years ago that requires voters to show a photo ID, ended same-day registration and reduced early voting — legislation designed to suppress voting in North Carolina by making it more difficult, legislation that is currently being challenged in the federal courts as unconstitutional. North Carolina Republicans have been pushing for restrictions on voting — cloaking their effort with the Orwellian phrase “voting integrity” — since Democrat Barack Obama won the state in the 2008 presidential election. They believe college students don’t vote for GOP candidates, so it’s in Republicans’ long-term political interest to limit student voting whenever and wherever possible.

We are surprised, however, that Hill-Lawrence, Sharp or any other member of the 4th Ward community group would embrace such voter suppressing ideas. But given Hill-Lawrence’s inability to connect with student voters in two straight council elections — she lost bids in both 2013 and earlier this month — maybe it is understandable why she would tell Steinburg that student voting “isn’t working here.” Like the Republicans statewide, Hill-Lawrence isn’t winning many student votes. Therefore, it’s in her interest — and her campaign manager Sharp’s interest — that fewer of them vote in city elections.

Which brings us back to the subject of supporting ECSU. It seems disingenuous for Steinburg, Hill-Lawrence, Sharp and others to say they support ECSU and want its student body to grow — something that’s not happening right now — if they’re also endorsing an idea that could drive current ECSU students away and discourage others from coming to the campus. We’re no marketing experts, but it seems a losing strategy to tell prospective ECSU students they are very welcome in Elizabeth City but only as long as they do their voting elsewhere. The message a real supporter of ECSU should be sending to prospective students is the exact opposite: that we want your input as a citizen, we welcome you as a voter and value your participation in our civic life. Until that message begins to be delivered, it’s difficult to see ECSU’s enrollment decline turning around.

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Fair is Fair

Any ECSU student who wishes to vote in EC should register for tax collection purposes any applicable personal property domiciled with them here in Elizabeth City, i.e. vehicles. After all, anyone civic minded enough to want to vote and affect change in the towns where they are attending college is surely civic minded enough to want to pay their fair share of taxes. I am also sure that they will not have a problem when the election is of a state or national scale in waiting for their votes to be counted until it can be verified that there has been no absentee ballot cast in their hometown. If the ECSU students have not problems with the above suggestions, then I have no problem with them voting and influencing elections in which I quite frankly believe they have no real interest. Peer pressure is a powerful thing.

Bwheat

It's unfortunate that the Editor(s) choose to pick and choose parts of the 4th ward meeting where Rep. Steinberg was the guest speaj=ker. I believe the Daily Advance reporter, Mr. Hawley, taped the whole meeting. IN NO WAY were students discouraged from voting. They were encouraged to absentee vote from the towns where they lived. Here they are told to vote for certain candidates. Particularly in the 4th ward. They have no idea of the ramifications of their vote. It would ceratainly be a surprise to the citizens of this city if the DA had an honest and unbiased Opinion Page but then I stopped believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny a long time ago !

And..... voting absentee (or

And..... voting absentee (or in person for that matter) in the precinct where they call home and intend to return to makes far more sense. The person elected in their home precinct would have more of an impact on their future than a representative in a temporary precinct. Additionally, the "temporary residents" skew the totals and impact on permanent residents' votes - those people that are going to have to live with the results.

Have no fear sparatus

My wife is preparing a column with exactly that information. Along with an answer to the same old tired scare tactics and misinformation this editorial includes and liberals love to spread about the requirement for ID, etc.

Thanks fairnessinmedia. I

Thanks fairnessinmedia. I look forward to seeing your wife's column.

I just wonder if The Daily Advance really believes the garbage they print on this subject or if they are intentionally trying to deceive their low information liberal readers. I suspect it's the latter.

"We’re not surprised

"We’re not surprised Steinburg would be engaged in discussions about suppressing student voting. After all, he voted along with his Republican colleagues for legislation two years ago that requires voters to show a photo ID, ended same-day registration and reduced early voting — legislation designed to suppress voting in North Carolina by making it more difficult, legislation that is currently being challenged in the federal courts as unconstitutional. North Carolina Republicans have been pushing for restrictions on voting — cloaking their effort with the Orwellian phrase “voting integrity” — since Democrat Barack Obama won the state in the 2008 presidential election. They believe college students don’t vote for GOP candidates, so it’s in Republicans’ long-term political interest to limit student voting whenever and wherever possible."

Suppressing student voting? No. They are strongly encouraged to vote where they live. Most don't live here and have very little interest in the long-term interests of Elizabeth City. These students should be actively involved in who represents them back home don't you think?

The Daily Advance once again spouts the tired liberal talking points about voter ID that have long been dispelled. Even under the new rules, NC voters have far more opportunities to cast their votes that most every other state. I'd like the Daily Advance to publish for it's readers a comparison of voting laws in NC, Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut. They won't do it, though - because then TDA readers would find that NC has some of the least restrictive rules in the country.

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