North Carolina students are on the front lines of the voting access battle this week. They’ve brought an unprecedented legal challenge, arguing that the state’s restrictive voting law violates the constitutional right of those 18-21 to vote.
Seven college students joined an existing anti-discrimination lawsuit brought by voting rights groups. That suit is a response to last summer’s passage of one of the most restrictive voting laws in history. The students are asking that North Carolina hold off on enforcing key parts of the law before a trial in July of 2015 that will decide the constitutionality of the laws. While the other parties to the lawsuit have stressed the alleged racially discriminatory nature of the law (and its violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment), the students are bringing a new weapon to the fight: the 26th amendment. The 26th, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, has never been cited in a such a case. But with a law that makes it impossible to vote with a student ID, throws out ballots cast outside of the voter’s home precinct, and eliminates a very popular early registration program for 16- and 17-year-olds, the case is being made that the right of the young to vote is at risk.
But with such a wide range of affected voters, who, exactly, are the targets of the law’s alleged discrimination? The students and voting rights groups agree: the law seeks to curtail voting by Democrats. Democratic preferences are well-documented among minority and youth voters.
Defending the law, NC Senator Jeff Tarte said that the state only intends to prevent students from fraudulently voting twice — in their hometowns and their college towns. Wherever the judge lands on enforcement during the upcoming midterm elections, the students and the minority groups challenging the legislation are certain to keep up the fight.