Raleigh, N.C. — A bill filed in the state Senate Tuesday would carry a tax penalty for parents whose children register to vote at their college address.
Senate Bill 667, known as "Equalize Voter Rights," would remove the tax exemption for dependents who register to vote at any address other than their parents' home.
"If the voter is a dependent of the voter's parent or legal guardian, is 18 years of age or older and the voter has registered at an address other than that of the parent or legal guardian, the parent or legal guardian will not be allowed to claim the voter as a dependent for state income tax purposes," the bill says.
The measure would affect only state income tax, so it wouldn't have much effect on out-of-state students. But it could effectively cut student voting in counties like Watauga and Orange, where college voters have been a key part of the Democratic Party's dominance.
The bill would also require voters to have their vehicles registered at the same address as their voter registration. That also could cut down on college student registration, since many students maintain their vehicle registration in their home counties.
Sponsor Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, didn't immediately respond to inquiries about the intent of the legislation.
House Minority Leader Larry Hall said the bill "would raise taxes on middle-class families who are trying to put their children through college.”
“I refuse to believe the Republican leadership has become so desperate to limit voting for partisan gain that they would be willing to support tax increases to achieve that goal," said Hall, D-Durham. "It is the definition of arrogance to penalize parents with new taxes just because their children want to exercise their right to vote in the community they live in.”
Four other Republican senators have signed on as co-sponsors, including a member of the Senate leadership – budget chairman Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake.
The same provisions on student voting have also been rolled into a larger omnibus bill, Senate Bill 666, which would also shorten early voting days, ban early voting on evenings and weekends and prohibit same-day registration.
That bill is also sponsored by Cook and is similar to House Bill 451, which was filed last week by House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes.
UPDATE: In an emailed statement this afternoon, Cook defended S666 and S667, saying their reforms "will be appreciated by citizens in this state who view voting as a sacred civic duty."
"In these tough economic times, we need to be proactive in finding ways to save money. One day of early voting in North Carolina costs $98,000. Our counties bear this cost exclusively. Cutting back early voting from seventeen to ten days does this by saving roughly $686,000 per election. This money would be better used to hire teachers and first responders," Cook said.
"We are simply equalizing the playing field for all voters in our state," the statement said.
Jay DeLancy of the NC Voter Integrity Project also voiced support for the student voting restrictions, citing a case in which college students in Buncombe County changed the outcome of a race for a county commission seat in 2012.
"That race showed how easily college students can be manipulated like pawns," DeLancy said in a press release. "These bills will protect students from such abuse."