UNCW Student Government Association makes motions to oppose NC Senate bill

Casey McAnarney | News Editor

In a resolution entitled ‘An Act of Student Opposition to North Carolina House Bill 589,’ UNC Wilmington’s Student Government Association voiced the opinion of the organization and the campus as a whole by stating that the Voter Information Verification Act of 2013, which went into effect this year, restricts the voting rights of college students.

Vice President for Governmental Outreach for the UNC Association of Student Governments and UNCW SGA Nontraditional Senator Steven Núñez explained that resolutions are officially bound documents stating the opinion of the student body.

“They have to pass a Senate vote,” said Núñez, “so essentially this resolution means that the entire campus is against the bill… you and the rest of the student body just told members of [the] General Assembly that you don’t approve of their legislation.”

The resolution presented by Núñez and the rest of UNCW’s SGA states that “the [House Bill’s] restriction of the early voting period institutes an impediment to student voting and hinders student turnout.”

The resolution additionally points out that it “prevent[s] students from using college-issued IDs as voter identification, even though college-issued IDs have been sufficient in previous North Carolina elections.”

Other issues cited in the document include that the “photo ID requirement effectively disenfranchises the majority of system students who do not possess North Carolina-issued photo identification, including out-of-state students, students of limited financial means and students unaware of the changes in voting law.”

Overall, the resolution notes that NC House Bill 589 marginalizes out-of-state students in the UNC system, which make up 15 percent of the student body, as well as “extend[s] beyond students and disproportionately affects populations of color and low socioeconomic status individuals across North Carolina.”

This resolution came about because the North Carolina State Board of Elections released a public comment notice listing their proposed rules to help instate the Voter Information Verification Act and asked for commentary from ‘interested parties.’

“[So] alongside the System Student Body President [and] Board of Governor Member, Zack King,” said Núñez, “we drafted a letter to [the NCSBE] voicing our dissent which went unanswered.”

In the letter that went unanswered, Núñez and King stated that, on behalf of the student body of the UNC system, “we, the UNC Association of Student Governments, write in response to your invitation for public comment regarding the revision of proposed rules for photo identification (ID) requirements for in-person voting, which we feel adversely impact the ease of access to the polls for eligible student voters.”

The primary concern expressed in this letter was that of the use of university sanctioned IDs. The letter made the case that since the UNC institutions are sanctioned by the state, “the ID issued by their facilities should therefore be accepted as a suitable form of photo ID for registered in-person voters.”

However, since the letter went unanswered even after the NCSBE invited comment of the proposed rules for the now active law, those involved in the UNCASG felt as though they needed to show the General Assembly they were serious about this issue.

“So, prior to the last ASG meeting at Elizabeth City State University the Student Body President at Duke reached out to Zack King and said that they were proposing [the resolution] at their Senate and wondered if [other UNCASG members] would advocate passing it on other campuses,” said Núñez. “We did and passed a copy as the UNCASG, and I added a few lines to accommodate explanation regarding the Congressional Primary being moved to June 7 and the effects it has on out-of-state students specifically.”

When it comes to this situation, Núñez wants students to know that they “do have and have had allies working behind the scenes and fighting tirelessly for the rights of the students in the UNC System.”

He thinks students ought to know that there is such an establishment that can advocate for their needs.

And, on the matter of students speaking up and voicing their opinions, UNCW sophomore and SGA Senator Joseph Herlihy said that “House Bill 589 is bad for students and… until more students realize how bad something like House Bill 589 is to them, things like this might continue to keep their voice from being heard.”

In hopes to get students talking with government officials, Núñez will be leading an advocacy trip on March 14-15 on Capitol Hill meeting with the offices of Congressmen David Price and David Rouzer, Congresswomen Alma Adams and Virginia Foxx, and Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.

Núñez is also trying to arrange an appointment with the Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus chaired by Congresswoman Adams to advocate for our HBCUs. 

Overall, it is hard to advocate for voices that SGA does not hear from, according to Núñez, so it is important that the student body be involved in all levels of government, especially on a campus where they have an immense amount of power.