What the Hell, North Carolina? Why Did You Prevent Hundreds of People From Voting?

North Carolina used to be one of the most innovative states in the south and in the past 2-3 years, I've been kind of ashamed to call myself a Tarheel. I grew up in the Triangle area with access to education, resources, and diversity. And I knew when I was of age, that I would vote. Then I started to see an extreme political tug of war happening between political parties after President Obama was elected. The next thing I know, unemployment benefits were cut for many and Medicaid didn't expand under the Affordable Healthcare Act. And in 2012, North Carolina passed one of the worst voter suppression laws since Jim Crow: HB 589. North Carolina's voter registration law HB 589 requires photo ID to vote, eliminates same-day voter registration, decreases the amount of days during early voting from 17 to 10, throws out out-of-precinct ballots, and gets rid of pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds. 

What the hell, NC?

And for those who believe these new laws don't affect voters, hundreds of North Carolinians were disenfranchised in the September 2014 primaries. Most believe this discourages people of color, low-income, and young voters from voting. These underserved demographics are historically less likely to vote given more restrictions. This is despite the great strides society has gone through to ensure they have the right to vote. 

Right to Vote

Growing up, my parents always talked to me about the power of the vote. One of my parents is a Democrat and the other is a Republican. Regardless of their political affiliation, both were ardent supporters of not only my right to vote, but the people of my generation as well. Almost every black American household heard the same speech growing up: "Our people fought and DIED for your right to vote. I don't care who you cast a ballot for, you better vote!" I voted in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 elections as a North Carolina resident. I regret not voting in the primaries and midterm elections when it mattered the most. If I were a more active voter in the non-presidential years, maybe my vote would have made a difference in ensuring the lawmakers who passed these voter laws not get elected. 

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. NC NAACP president Rev. William Barber led Moral Mondays which brought thousands of people to the state capital to protest these new laws among other issues North Carolinians are facing. Students and young professionals are working hard to ensure young voters are educated on the new voting changes-some of which don't go into effect until 2016. Also, these new voting laws will be a major variable in upcoming midterm elections. These laws won't get turned around over night but in the meantime, it's up to us to make sure voters are educated. 

So if you don't live in North Carolina, why should you care about this? First, if you're not registered to vote yet, do so now. Next, pay attention to any new voter registration laws in your state and how it may affect you. Truth is, it probably won't but it may affect your neighbor, friend, or relative. Let's not make what is going on in North Carolina a national trend. REGISTER TO VOTE NOW