North Carolina Republicans Respect the Constitution Like 16 Year Olds Respect Their Parents

disrespectful-teenagerIn June, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which paved the way for states to move forward with strict new voting laws. The case I’m referring to is Shelby County v. Holder. Many states with Republican controlled legislatures and Republican governors, including North Carolina, did just that. They swiftly began to debate and pass sweeping and extremely restrictive new pieces of legislation. For instance, the new law bans students from using their state issued student ID’s to vote. It remains to be seen whether these laws will be upheld or struck down by courts under other provisions of the Voting Rights Act. But, one thing is clear, by installing new Republican Board of Elections personnel – who are using their power to block students from voting on residency grounds – North Carolina’s leadership has gone one step too far. Blocking students from voting at the colleges they attend blatantly violates the Constitution. It’s as though NC stands for No Constitution will stop us. Not only is this practice illegal and brazenly unconstitutional, it is also discriminatory and morally wrong.

The problem started when an Elizabeth City State University student, Montravias King, attempted to run for Elizabeth City city council. After King, who has been living, working, studying, and voting in Elizabeth City since 2009, announced he would be running for office, Pasquotank County GOP Chair Pete Gilbert challenged his candidacy on the grounds he was not a permanent resident. Subsequently, The Pasquotank County Board of Elections, on a party-line 2-1 vote, ruled that King had not proven his permanent residency at ECSU and was not eligible to run for an Elizabeth City city council seat in the 4th Ward. Since residency for running for office is the same as residency for voting, the Board of Elections has essentially ruled that students are no longer eligible to vote where they attend college, because they are not permanent residents. Following the decision, the head of the county’s Republican Party said he planned to challenge the voter registrations of more students at the historically black university ahead of upcoming elections.

For a party that claims to respect the Constitution, North Carolina Republicans respect it about as much as most 16 year olds respect their parents. Which is to say, not very much at all.


Well, back in 1979, in a case known as Symm v. United States, the Supreme Court explicitly ruled that denying college students the right to vote in the county they go to school in was unconstitutional, when they summarily affirmed the ruling of the lower court which stated exactly that. In case you are wondering why the Court did not write an opinion, it is because they agreed with the lower court and had no other comments; except for Justice Rhenquist, who dissented because he believed the District Court had mistakenly exercised jurisdiction over Symm.  Thus, NC’s attempt to block students from voting at their colleges is clearly, no questions asked, a violation of the law.

The story goes like this. In a small county outside of Houston, TX, known as Waller, sits Prairie View A&M, a state-supported, predominantly black university. A university where students wanted to vote. In order to vote, the students first needed to register, and a man named Symm was responsible for handling voter registration in the county. When it came to people Symm knew personally and those listed on the tax rolls as owning property in Waller County, Symm would simply have them fill out a state registration form. However, those who Symm didn’t know or who did not own property in Waller were required to complete a residency questionnaire. A questionnaire that specifically asked whether the applicant was a college student and, if so, inquired into the student’s home address, property ownership, employment status, etc.

Fed up with the practice, on October 14, 1976, the Attorney General of the United States filed an action against Symm, Waller County, the State of Texas, and its Secretary of State and Attorney General, alleging that use of the questionnaire denied Prairie View students the right to vote in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Twenty-sixth Amendments. After hearing testimony on the issue, the District Court found that Symm’s registration practices violated the Twenty-sixth Amendment and permanently enjoined him from using the questionnaire. Symm appealed from that judgment and as I mentioned above, the Supreme Court agreed. Therefore, since 1979, the practice of barring students from voting where they go to college simply because they do not live there all year round has been illegal. Which means it’s still illegal today.

Apparently, North Carolina Republicans never got this memo because for some imbecilic reason, the Pasquotank County Board of Election thinks it is perfectly OK to disqualify these students from voting (it’s not). It’s as if the memo was sent using a telegram, which would make sense, since that is apparently the era North Carolina Republicans still live in. I guess it’s only appropriate that the North Carolina state motto is Esse Quam Videri, which translates into “To Be, Rather Than To Seem,” because the actions the Republican leadership in North Carolina have taken don’t just seem unconstitutional, they are unconstitutional. But hey, at least they are living up to their motto.

Ilyssa Fuchs

Ilyssa Fuchs is an attorney, freelance writer, and activist from New York City, who holds both a juris doctor and a political science degree. She is the founder of the popular Facebook page Politically Preposterous and a blog of the same name. Follow Ilyssa on Twitter @IlyssaFuchs, and be sure to check out her archives on Forward Progressives as well!


Facebook comments

  • Mike Williams

    How weird that different articles about voting rights violations could be commented on using the same comment.
    The articles in question?

    Texas republicans claim redistricting was an attempt to disenfranchise democrats, not minorities. (that’s their defense in court)

    Iranian woman too pretty for public office.

    (Her election there was overturned because she was too pretty.)

    Now this article.

    My comment then was on the article about the Iranian women.
    Substitute the woman for anyone not republican, and replace Iran with Texas or North Carolina. You basically have the same story….


    Our Politicians need to remember their job is to represent the people and the people’s interest. Not self interest. IF they can not do this, then they MUST step down.

    • Alexander Lege

      The second ammendment is there for you to step them down.

  • K_Ann

    Obviously Ms Fuchs did not go to law school. The case she references Symm v US did not expressly state that students must be allowed to vote at college; what it did was uphold the lower court injunction that forbade the use of Mr. Symm’s questionnaire. And anyone with a modicum of knowledge would quickly recognize that not accepting a college ID is not the same thing as saying you can’t vote – they’re just asking for your driver’s license – or in the King case something with an address on it. In the King case he refused to provide a driver’s license – I have no sympathy – I had to locate a caseload of documentation to renew my driver’s license (thanks to all the illegal immigrants), in fact he had nothing with an address. The article doesn’t state if he pays in or out of state tuition; but his refusal to get a driver’s license or some type of documentation leads me to believe he is more interested in gaming the system and crying victim than really wanting to represent people in office. And if he isn’t willing to get a Driver’s License – is that the pattern we can expect from him on the job – whining a bunch of excuses. We have enough elected officials who put personal ego ahead of the people they represent.

    • Guest

      Your a jerk! You and the rest of the GOP are trying to deny those that CHOOSE

      • K_Ann

        Choose what? Choose to hate people based on their political party? I have never seen a site so dedicated to nothing but promoting hatred and ill will than this forwardprogressive site. Now Ms. Fuchs is trying to say Mr. King’s situation is the same as the Symm case – although students weren’t the only ones affected by the Symm questionnaire. But more important, King didn’t want to provide documentation of his residence other than his student ID – you have to ask why – other than setting up a test case to invalidate voter ID law. You need to learn to analyze for yourself rather than just regurgitate what others have told you to think.

      • TropicDave173

        “I have never seen a site so dedicated to nothing but promoting hatred and ill will than this forwardprogressive site”
        Apparently you haven’t looked very hard. Try almost any conservative site, and view their comments about the President, Democrats, and progressives. Or go to any conservative politician’s Facebook page. Say Rand Paul or Allen West. This page pales in comparison.

      • mixie1

        First look,,,, Rush Limbaugh started this “hate” rhetoric
        on his “hate” radio nearly 20 years ago…. it made him lots of $$$$$$ and then other copycats came up with the same. Tearing this country apart is not a pretty site. I’m glad I’m old and don’t have any children to leave in this mess.

      • mornixuur

        “other than setting up a test case to invalidate voter ID law.”

        It’s interesting you should say that.

        I personally see nothing wrong with setting up a test case to invalidate an unconstitutional practice. It’s interesting that if you’re forced to make a choice between someone who’s willing to defend the law of the land, and someone who’s willing to break it… you’re coming down hard on the person who would defend it.

    • ricklee228

      Just another case of them losers, all republicans, of how they will do anything they
      can to stay in office when we don’t want them there. There are people
      who do not drive, do not desire to drive or for some reason of another
      cannot drive. Demanding a drivers license, which is basically what you
      haters want, is unconstitutional. Don’t F’ing tell me I have to have a
      drivers license to vote in the country I was born and raised in. If you
      had a problem getting your drivers license don’t be so damn ignorant as
      to blame illegals for your woes in getting a license blame yourself for
      letting your shit fall between the cracks. You are just another example
      of what is wrong with this country, too many assholes thinking that for
      some God given reason they are better than the next guy! You make me sick to my stomach you arrogant piece of malignant shit. You and all those that think like you should be lined up and given a full frontal lobotomy. then with no brain you would make sense other than that you are nothing more than a prejudice hater disguised in sheep clothing. Take your brand of hatred and shove it up your ass. Hatred does not constitute just cause! The battle has been fought and lost, stop crying, stop trying to pull shit out of your asses to protect and save a dying political party that is based on hatred and discrimination and you should hang your head in shame. I am so glad I don’t know you because I would have to bitch slap you for your ignorance. You sicken me. As long as the ID has the person’s name on it and a picture what the hell does it matter? You can’t get any picture ID without first proving your residency first. Your ignorance is only exceeded by the depth of your ass! Again, you sicken me and should really go hang yourself for being so ignorant and prejudiced. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME. My god have mercy on your soul because you obviously don’t have a soul or a brain.

    • nnyinside

      The reason why they ruled against the questionaire, as explained by the court’s decision, is because it barred students from having bona fide residency given to other people who live in the area. The intent of the ruling is very obvious if you pull your head from out your butt… When you pull this “i know more about the law and am better than you” crap, you just look dumb.

      • K_Ann

        Actually, it wasn’t just students but the distinction here is not residency but proof of residency at least as regards Mr. King; he refused to provide any proof other than his student ID; although he maintained he he had been a resident since 2009. Ms Fuchs offers he is being denied because he is a student – but is that the same thing as not providing documentation he is a resident? It’s one thing to agree students shouldn’t have a higher burden of proof but quite another to say they should have a lower burden of proof.

  • Guest

    Just another case of them losers, all republicans, will do anything they can to stay in office when we don’t want them there.

  • Runawaygirl83

    I think barring someone from running for office in their college town is a little different than barring someone from voting while in their school district. Correlation does not compute.

  • labman57

    Somewhere in D.C., 5 men in black robes could be heard muttering one of the following exclamations:

    1) “Oops!”
    2) “So …”
    3) “Mission accomplished!”