By 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 18, I had accomplished two things, which is two things more than I normally take care of by that time on the average day: I had acquired my tickets for the parents’ weekend basketball game, and I had voted early in the 2012 election.
This was my third time voting. I’d already voted in a local election last year after 18 years and four months of anticipating the right to vote, and that election changed the balance of power in the theoretically nonpartisan school board of the 16th largest school system in the nation. I also voted in last May’s primary as part of the 39 percent of North Carolinians who voted against Amendment One. Both of those elections were significant on either the local or state level, but on Oct. 18, for the first time in my life, I got to vote for the president of the United States.
To me, just the fact that I get to vote is an honor and a privilege. I watched this summer as laws were passed around the country to make it harder to vote. In an effort to fight the epidemic of in-person voter fraud, voter ID laws have been proposed by 37 states’ legislatures. Pennsylvania—a battleground state like North Carolina—and our neighbor, South Carolina, have passed voter ID laws. A study by News21 found 10—yes, 10—cases of in-person voter impersonation among 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000. Though the study may have underestimated this count somewhat, it’s nowhere near the 537 votes that proved to be the difference in Florida in 2000. Meanwhile, the more than 14,000 Duke undergraduate and graduate students who might have had a barrier in their way can significantly influence the election.
This kind of law is aimed at you—and it would have succeeded if it weren’t for Gov. Beverly Perdue’s veto of a 2011 voter ID proposal. Every student on this campus has photo identification, but a law that requires a government-issued ID would make your Duke card ineligible, and most Duke students don’t have a reason to get separate N.C. identification. Do you remember the e-mail the administration sent out that serves as your proof of residency to vote in Durham County? Without it, would you have had a plan to prove that you’re a student who resides in North Carolina? Would you have to try to go through your home state’s likely byzantine absentee ballot process instead? Or would you have been prevented from voting?
The effort required to vote on campus is minimal, thanks to the Durham County Board of Elections, Duke University and Gov. Perdue’s voter ID veto. Throughout the week, there’s an early voting site next to the on-campus Chick-fil-A; you could cast your ballot between classes. The last day to vote early, vote on campus or register and vote at the same time is Nov. 3—if the football team has upset Clemson, you’re too late.
I’ve been asked whether voting in this election is worth the effort, or whether either candidate is worth voting for. For example, when Gary Johnson came to Duke, he compared President Obama and Mitt Romney to Coke and Pepsi. This metaphor is flawed because Coke and Pepsi are actually different. I’d make a joke about how Duke has Coke and UNC has Pepsi, but I’d be sending mixed messages as to whether red or blue is better—I’m a Coke fan, but my vote went blue. President Obama is the first president ever to endorse gay marriage; Governor Romney wants a federal constitutional amendment to ban it. Up to 45 million more people would be uninsured under a President Romney than under President Obama. Access to contraception, education and health care is at risk if Gov. Romney is elected and given a Republican Congress (and that’s a good reason to vote down the ballot as well). There are also several Supreme Court justices who could retire in the next term. Keep in mind that decisions on issues like gay marriage are due at any point in the next few years.
And most importantly, the economy is recovering under President Obama. For a crash that drew comparisons to the Great Depression, the fact that we’ve gotten as far as we have is a testament to the success of President Obama’s economic policy. Unemployment was in the double digits; it’s fallen back down to 7.8 percent. When I got my ballot for my third and most important election, the first thing I did was proudly add my voice to all those calling for President Obama to serve for four more years.
Jordan DeLoatch is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs every other Tuesday. You can follow Jordan on Twitter @jstorm64.