Guest post by Nic Justice T’18 | Duke Voting Coalition
When it comes to voter ID laws and district gerrymandering in modern American politics, there are perhaps no states that have been as adversely affected as North Carolina. We typically associate these tactics with far-right, consistently red states – whose legislatures and governorships have long been controlled by a Republican party bent on maintaining majority representation. Most of the time, the purpose of these laws is to solidify the current majority, not to steal the state away from the opposition party.
However, North Carolina – being one of the few swing states that enacted voter ID laws (in 2013) and redistricted its voting precincts (in 2011) – is markedly different. Before such legislation was enacted, this state was known to consistently vote purple in presidential and congressional races: both the 2008 and 2012 elections were decided by margins of less than 2%, with similar figures being recorded for the midterms. But since installing these new regulations after 2010, we’ve witnessed multiple landslide wins for the GOP in the state house, state senate, and in congressional seats. They now 1) hold a massive majority in the state legislature, 2) have controlled the governorship since 2013, 3) have defied polling projections to recapture their second Senate seat in 2015, and 4) control 10 out of 13 House seats.
These monumental shifts in political representation do not reflect a change in demographics or in ideological beliefs. Instead, they reflect the fact that political participation has been discouraged – if not intentionally subdued – against the poor, minority groups, and college students for the past 5 years. If North Carolina is truly a purple state (and all of the polling data says so), then the complete dominance of GOP representation in recent years does not correlate with that assertion.
But this year’s presidential election is unlike any other. For the first time since 2010, federal courts have struck down North Carolina’s voter ID legislation and its redistricting plans. Both courts cited the laws as being overtly partisan and drawn along racially-charged lines. For the first time since 2010, Duke students – as well as many other underrepresented minority groups across this state – can vote without discrimination or hindrance from regulations. For the first time since 2010, there are no logistical obstacles preventing any American citizen at Duke from putting their opinions to the ballot box. This means that the results of this election have a higher chance of reflecting the true political opinions of the electorate, and that our state is a key battleground once again.
This election has sparked a serious amount of student interest in political conversation. We can’t open our Facebooks profiles, our Twitter accounts, or our Groupmes without seeing a flood of anti-Trump or anti-Hillary arguments. It seems that every conversation, one way or another, is drenched in this topic, because we know that the result of this contest is what will drive social, economic, and foreign policy for the next 4 years. This is perhaps in the first time in recent memory where a majority of millennials and younger generations actually care about what happens in a presidential race.
The millennial share of the vote in North Carolina could be decisive in flipping the state for both sides. Ultimately, none of your Facebook posts, none of your classroom arguments, and none of your public statements about this election will matter if you don’t cast your ballot on November 8th. The value of your political opinion is completely attached to your tangible vote – not your intangible chastisements of candidates and what they’ve said.
For the first time since 2010, our state is completely up for grabs and is expected to be decided by a very small margin. Regardless of where you stand, regardless of what you think, it only matters if you can put your money where your mouth is.