Voting is kind of important. It is a Constitutional right that is sought by much of the world but exercised by only a minority of Americans. It is a right that our leaders and soldiers have fought and died for. It is the most efficient mechanism through which we can hold our representatives accountable to their actions and responsible for our interests.

Yet many Duke students will not vote today. Some will rationalize their civic inactivity by prioritizing their schoolwork over the statistically near-impossible odds of their vote making a difference. Others will tell themselves that they know too little to contribute one way or the other. While I do not necessarily respect either justification, at least these students will themselves choose not to cast their ballots.

Today, at least a few students will not vote because of newly established voter restrictions, disproportionately levied on minority groups and college students. Same-day registration has been eliminated, early voting has been cut by a week and Duke has been split into more than one precinct. Starting in 2016, many North Carolina citizens will for the first time need state-approved photo IDs to cast their votes. North Carolina’s conservative state legislature has effectively stripped many students of their most fundamental democratic tool. And unfortunately, this subtle disenfranchisement is not limited to Duke or North Carolina—throughout the “Land of the Free,” leaders of the GOP have been allowed to silence the voices of their opposition.

The GOP will suggest that these restrictions are being implemented in order to limit the potential for voter fraud. However, anyone can look at the facts and the context and realize that the goal is exclusively to help ensure Republican victories in competitive districts and states across the country. To vote to eliminate voter fraud, a legislator must make two assumptions. First, she would need to believe that voter fraud is actually a problem. Second, she would need to think that every legitimate vote is valuable, and therefore only try to eliminate voter fraud to the extent that doing so produces a net benefit to all voters.

Let me tell you a bit about voter fraud. It hardly exists. Yes, it exists, but to an extent far lower than any other democracy in the world. Ironically, many instances of voter fraud happen behind closed doors rather than at the bidding of devious voters. In 2012, of 7 million ballots cast in the NC election, the Board of Elections referred a total of 121 alleged cases of voter fraud upward. This constitutes about .0017 percent of the votes, and these are not even confirmed cases of fraud. Justin Levitt published a study with the Washington Times in which he retroactively counted 31 “credible incidents” of voter fraud involving a lack of photo identification since 2000.

In a rare moment of authenticity from Speaker Thom Tillis, who conveniently helped spearhead the restrictive legislation through N.C.’s legislature a year before his Senate race with incumbent Kay Hagan, the deeper explanation for voter restrictions came to light. Under questioning, he claimed: “We call this ‘restoring confidence in elections.’ There is some voter fraud, but that's not the primary reason for doing this."

So Speaker Tillis acknowledges that recent restrictions are not so much to counter voter fraud, as they are to increase sentiments of voter efficacy. That sounds nice—in fact, it sounds great! The funny part is that everyone would support efforts to increase voter efficacy, so long as they didn’t simultaneously do exactly the opposite. Speaker Tillis and his colleagues are not trying to increase voter confidence in general, but among their constituents.

Taken as a given that voter fraud is not a problem, let’s look into who these restrictions will affect. An important point before discussing this any further is that these restrictions have only come in the wake of a Supreme Court decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act, which set the standards by which a state legislature might require “preclearance” for changes in electoral law that disenfranchise minority groups.

More than any other group, African Americans turn out to vote early—now they have one less week to do so. Poor, elderly and urban minority groups are among the most likely to not have a state-allowed photo ID. Many of these individuals do not have access to a car or transport to a division of motor vehicles office that can be more than 10 miles away. On the list of approved IDs in many states includes a gun registration license, but not a student ID card. At Duke, upperclassmen who may have voted on East in 2012 will not be able to vote this year unless they re-registered with their new address before the deadline. Out-of-precinct provisional votes will no longer be counted.

Notice a trend? Almost every demographic primarily affected by these restrictions tends to vote for the Democratic Party in elections. And maybe this would be fine, provided that new laws were communicated and efforts were made to make sure no one would lose his ability to vote. But let me tell you—these laws are extensive, and they are complicated. And the GOP doesn’t make it any easier. According to the Raleigh News and Observer, a conservative group associated with the Koch Brothers sent out falsified voter registration information to those affected by the laws in an apparent effort to restrict their voices.

Voter disenfranchisement is not exclusively a GOP phenomenon—both parties are guilty historically of gerrymandering and trying to maximize their chances of winning. I oppose this type of legislation on all fronts. But for now, Republican legislators should be very clear about the true intentions behind these restrictions.

If for no other reason, go out and vote today to stick it to the legislators who have subtly disrespected and stolen your rights.

Brendan McCartney is a Trinity junior. His column runs every other Tuesday.