TO THE EDITOR:
In an article published by the (Raleigh) News & Observer on Dec. 31, 2016, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory discussed his loss in the recent election, saying, “I think the real impact was [sic] in the Supreme Court decision to disallow us from having voter ID, which allowed a lot of college students who live out of state to vote.”
On the surface, this could be a simple misunderstanding about the rights of out-of-state students to vote in North Carolina. However, this quote could be foreshadowing at a larger policy change. According to North Carolina Public Interest Research Group (NCPIRG) coalition partners in the North Carolina General Assembly, lawmakers are currently working on a bill to bar out-of-state students from voting.
Regardless of the partisan politics surrounding this issue, a proposal to ban out-of-state students from voting is alarming and illegal.
First...a ban on out-of-state student voting violates the North Carolina State Constitution. There is no question that out-of-state students are only temporary residents of the State, but the State Constitution specifically dictates that permanent residency is not a requirement to vote.
Article VI Section 2 of the North Carolina Constitution lays out basic voter qualifications, stating: “Any person who has resided in the State of North Carolina for one year and in the precinct, ward, or other election district for 30 days next preceding an election ... shall be entitled to vote at any election held in this State.”
According to the State Constitution, an out-of-state student has a legitimate right to vote in North Carolina as long as they have resided here for a year.
To be clear, attaining legal residency for tuition purposes is a completely separate process. The requirements are more rigorous as students must prove their intent and ability to live in North Carolina beyond the scope of attending school.
A student from another state is legally allowed to vote in North Carolina even if they are not considered residents for the purpose of tuition. This is an important distinction because virtually all students would qualify for in-state tuition if the requirements were the same as for voting eligibility, which would make higher out-of-state fees irrelevant.