Sept. 30, 2013. Oct. 1 marks the launch of a new youth-led project aimed to ensure every eligible voter can access the ballot box free from intimidation or incident. The NC Vote Defenders are launching in response to North Carolina’s new “Monster Voting Laws”.
“This set of new voting rules disproportionately and negatively affects students, people of color, and working families. In a region scarred by the legacy of poll taxes and Jim Crow, the NC Vote Defenders are determined not to allow our state to take steps backward,” said Bryan Perlmutter, a recent graduate from NC State and founder of the NC Vote Defenders. “We are heartened to hear that Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice are also taking action to challenge these outrageous new laws. They are the last gasps of sad old men who are trying to hold onto power – the laws restrict the participation of regular people and instead serve the interests of the elite and those who have held economic and political power in North Carolina for too long.”
“We are organizing groups of students across the state to monitor polls and guard against voter suppression. The Vote Defenders will be boots on the ground, trained to educate people on changing voting laws, document any incidents on Election Day, and help folks seek remedies when and where we can,” said Jessica Injejikian, Charlotte NC Vote Defender Organizing Fellow
This fall Vote Defenders will be stationed at polling places in Boone near Appalachian State, in Charlotte near Johnson C. Smith and UNC-Charlotte, in Wake County in Garner and Raleigh, and in Elizabeth City near Elizabeth City State University.
Suppressing the Student Vote in North Carolina
One provision of the new North Carolina Voting Laws has removed pre-registration for 16 and 17-year olds, a widely popular and successful initiative to register up and coming voters.
In the aftermath of the new voting laws, the Watauga County Board of Elections immediately moved the One Stop Early Voting site off the campus of Appalachian State University to a hard-to-access site with poor public transportation access more than two miles from campus.
The U.S. Supreme Court confirmed students’ right to vote where they attend school in the 1979 case of Symm vs. US. Yet, many students at Elizabeth City State University are still being told they cannot register and that if they try to vote, their votes will be challenged.
“Voter suppression and our new voting laws are not just affecting North Carolina. This state has become a testing ground for regressive voting restrictions that take us back in time. If these are not challenged, both in a courtroom and in our communities, other regressive state legislatures will take note and be ready to introduce their own restrictive voting laws – modeled on NC,” said Lela Ali, NC State student and Vote Defender.
“Students are the future – we have a right to vote and be heard. North Carolina should be doing everything in its power to increase youth voter participation, not restrict it. Voter suppression must be defeated in North Carolina, or else it will spread. By educating the public and helping people advocate for their rights at the ballot box, we will turn the tide back toward accessibility and equality for all North Carolinians,” said Albert Lindsey, IV Appalachian State University Vote Defender.
The NC Vote Defenders is a non-partisan organization. It was started by youth in the fall of 2013 to raise awareness of changing voting laws and advocate for all North Carolinians’ right to the ballot box.
The NC Vote Defenders is a project of Ignite NC – a youth-led organization supporting youth-led organizing efforts for justice and equality.
Solutions to the problems facing North Carolina and our global community lie in our ability to work together for the common good and to build the leadership and power of young people to create lasting change. In order to create the kind of future we all deserve, we must understand our past, defend the gains made by those who came before us, and ignite and empower every day people to lead efforts to build a fair and just future. When those most affected by injustice are the leaders who find and implement solutions, we will create a better world.
~Ignite NC Vision Statement