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Association of Student Governments talks voting

GREENVILLE — Student leaders from across the state might have disagreed on rhetoric, but ultimately found middle ground in response to new voting policies in North Carolina this weekend.

At East Carolina University, the UNC-system Association of Student Governments, which meets monthly at system schools across the state and is funded by a $1 annual student fee, passed a resolution asking counties with universities to keep student voting accessible.

This month, Watauga County Board of Elections closed the polling location on the Appalachian State University campus while Forsyth County Board of Elections considered closing the location on Winston Salem State University’s campus. In Pasquotank County, the Board of Elections barred a Elizabeth City State University senior from running for city council because his on-campus address didn’t establish residency.

Christy Lambden, UNC-CH student body president, introduced an amendment to ask the N.C. Board of Elections to overturn decisions in Watauga and Pasquotank Counties.

“It was great to show solidarity in supporting those schools that have had those voting rights suppressed,” Lambden said.

But Crystal Bayne, student government president at UNC-Greensboro, said using the word “suppress” would make the Boards of Elections less receptive to the association’s message.

“In this context, it came off a bit abrasive,” said Bayne, who abstained from the final vote.

The amended resolution passed 20-13. ASG President Robert Nunnery of UNC-Pembroke said he supported the action.

“There was heavy debate, and that makes it a better resolution,” he said.

The association also passed a resolution sponsored by the UNC-CH delegation to denounce the actions of the N.C. General Assembly.

The resolution criticized recent legislative actions, including changing voting laws, increasing out-of-state tuition and expanding the concealed carry law.

But other association leaders were concerned the resolution was reactive and not proactive. As a result, amendments were made to encourage working with the legislature.

The association passed its non-recurring budget through the second reading, setting aside $50,000 for voter education but tabling the section that would give more than $54,000 to administrative funds — including to a possible advisor. The bill needs one more reading to pass.

Nunnery said the General Administration requested an advisor for oversight, but others were concerned it could undermine ASG’s self-governance.

“We shouldn’t put more money towards salaries and stipends,” Lambden said.

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