Coming unhinged in Carolina
I love North Carolina. My family and I have vacationed on its beaches pretty much every year for the past three decades. I sent my daughter to one of its superb public universities. I’m absolutely devoted to its barbeque. I’ve even learned to admire – though I can’t cheer for – Duke basketball.
But I’ve observed that when their schools are shut out of the NCAA Final Four, as they’ve been this year, some folks in the basketball-crazy Tar Heel State seem to come unhinged.
This phenomenon often is particularly visible in the state legislature, admittedly a source of instability in many states. Just this week, the speaker of the NC House had to step in to kill a bill that would have permitted the General Assembly to establish a state religion – never mind that the Constitution specifically bans that in all 50 states.
But while one bit of insanity has been quashed, other troubling outbreaks persist. For example, Tar Heel legislators are considering a whole raft of bills specifically designed to keep tens of thousands of Carolinians from voting. There are bills to reduce – in one case by more than half – the number of days of early voting and to stop people from registering and voting on the same day. There’s legislation to require voters to display a government-issued photo ID at the polls.
There’s even a bill to – get this – impose a tax penalty on parents whose college-aged children register and vote in their college towns rather than back home with Mom and Dad. It would wipe out parents’ ability to claim as a dependant any child registered to vote away from home.
It’s pretty clear what’s happening here. After Barack Obama carried North Carolina in 2008 and threatened to do it again last year – largely on the strength of student turnout – Republican legislators started looking for ways to depress student voting.
Restricting early voting will do part of the job. Students registered in their home towns must either vote absentee or make a trip home on an early voting day; fewer early voting days means fewer opportunities for them to cast ballots.
The tax penalty adds another complication. It’s a bet that kids who depend on Mon and Dad to cover all or part of their tuition and fees aren’t going to register in their college towns if doing so will cost their parents a tax break.
Check it out, and spread the word. With a little citizen-administered therapy, Tar Heel lawmakers might yet recover their senses.