Impending changes in North Carolina voting policies prompted Duke Student Government legislation to assist students and staff at the polls.
Sophomore Derek Rhodes, vice president for Durham and regional affairs, introduced the legislation following a presentation titled “What’s at stake for Duke voters: the big impact of proposed voting laws” at the DSG meeting Wednesday night. Senior Elena Botella, president of Duke Democrats and member of North Carolina Students for Voting Access, said the upcoming policy changes are a reflection of the Republican majority in the North Carolina general assembly. The proposed new laws will restrict what constitutes voter identification and could limit Duke’s early voting site.
Rhodes noted that these new policies will impact all college campuses. Given the diverse geographic distribution of Duke students, however, such voting policies will be especially significant on Duke’s campus, he said.
“A change to voter identification laws, especially one that would not accept college IDs and voter registration cards—items that many Duke students possess and are fairly easy to obtain, would drastically reduce the number of Duke students who can and will vote,” Rhodes said.
Botella said voting student voting turn out in the 2012 election was far more successful than the 2008 election because students were able to vote on campus, adding that students had the opportunity to register to vote and vote on the same day.
The University should not expect to have an early voting site in the 2014 or 2016 elections, nor will students be guaranteed the ability to register to vote on voting day, Botella noted.
“These changes will have a major impact on the ease for students, like us, to be able to vote,” Botella said. “It could impact all students’ abilities to express their opinions through voting.”
Current proposals for voting policy changes include not accepting student identifications, Help America Vote Act documents, voter registration cards or out of state driver’s licenses as forms of voter identification, Botella said. New laws could also restrict student groups from being able to register voters.
Although no changes to voting laws have been made yet, the legislation proposed by Rhodes said in the event that the proposed laws are passed then DSG will encourage “Duke University to promptly develop a process for assisting students and staff in obtaining suitable identification.”
Until the laws are passed, Botella said that she encourages “proactive responses” from the student body.
Botella said that it is important for students to remember that they move many times during their time at Duke, and if these voter laws were enacted, they would need a new identification for each new address.
The legislation passed by unanimous consent.
In other business:
A funding request from the sophomore class council to fund Academic Homecoming did not pass.
Academic Homecoming is a new event on March 20 to allow the sophomore class to celebrate major declarations and selecting a new “academic home” at Duke. The event would culminate in a class picture and free shirts that declare each student’s major.
Lesavoy said that there needs to be more emphasis on building academic tradition at Duke. He noted that this event will foster a “sense of community” within the class.
The executive board of DSG presented legislation in response to the controversy surrounding the recent Kappa Sigma party.
Junior Stefani Jones, vice president for equity and outreach, read the beginning of the legislation to the Senate.
“In light of recent and past social events hosted by Duke student groups that have been racially, ethnically, culturally, sexually and otherwise offensive, the Duke Student Government would like to show support to communities that have been disrespected and urge that all groups are held to a higher standard of responsibility and accountability,” she read to the senate.
She added that DSG is condemning racism in any form, and encourages students to work towards accountability for all of their actions.
President Alex Swain, a senior, said DSG is in “alliance” with those who were offended, adding that the legislation is one step in making the Duke campus more inclusive.
“A resolution by itself is just a resolution,” Jones said. “We want to take more steps to prevent these situations from happening in the future.”