Raleigh, N.C. — The NAACP and other voting-rights groups say students will lead a "Moral Monday" rally at the governor's mansion next week to protest voting law changes and education cuts.
Student groups affiliated with the NAACP, Common Cause, Democracy North Carolina and the North Carolina Student Power Union are also planning to tour college campuses around the state, explaining the changes to voting laws and what students now need to do in order to vote.
The new voting law bans same-day voter registration, cuts the early voting period from 17 days to 10, removing one weekend, and bans pre-registration for 16- and 17-year olds – provisions that, according to rally organizers, helped thousands of students vote in 2008 and 2012.
State NAACP President Rev. William Barber said Thursday that North Carolina's new voting law is more restrictive than Alabama's or South Carolina's because it does not recognize student IDs as valid for voting purposes.
Instead, out-of-state students who want to vote in North Carolina – a constitutional right established by legal precedent – will have to produce four forms of identification to get a North Carolina identification card.
“It’s particularly offensive to young people,” Barber said. “ So, young people are standing up, and they will be speaking out in a major way."
Student activist Laurel Ashton said college students tend to support progressive causes, so she's not surprised conservative lawmakers want to make it more difficult for them to vote.
"We will we remind the governor and the state legislature that we are watching, and we understand what they are trying to do," she said.
Recent actions by Republican-led county boards of elections have highlighted the struggle over student voting in North Carolina.
Last month, the Pasquotank County Board of Elections removed an Elizabeth City State University student from the city council ballot. They ruled his dormitory didn't qualify as a legal residence – a decision that contradicts legal precedent. The State Board of Elections overturned that decision and put Montravius King back on the ballot.
In Boone, the Watauga County Board of Elections removed an early-voting site and an Election Day precinct from the Appalachian State University campus, combining the school with the rest of the town in a super-precinct with a far larger voting population than state law allows. The Republican majority of the county board reversed the latter decision before the state board heard the issue on appeal.
The Forsyth County Board of Elections also considered removing a voting site at Winston-Salem State University due to one board member's belief that some voters there might be breaking elections laws. The board has tabled that debate.
“These local boards of elections have lost their democratic minds," Barber said. "The governor appoints them. ... He needs to stand up and call them off."
The progressive voting-rights group Advancement Project is backing the NAACP and assisting with potential legal challenges to the law.
The group's Denise Lieberman said the North Carolina law "makes it harder every step of the way to cast a ballot.”
"This Is not just happening in North Carolina to be sure. This is part of a nationwide attack on the right to vote," Lieberman said. "But North Carolina stands out because this law is the worst we have seen in decades."