Emails show NC GOP elections board member tried to close early voting site on college campus for partisan reasons

Emails provided to the Associated Press following a public records request show that Paul Foley, a Republican board of elections member in North Carolina, worked with local party officials in an attempt to close an early voting site at Appalachian State University in a deliberate attempt to reduce Democratic voter turnout.

As reported by the AP:

The Watauga conflict originated when the local board’s two Republicans and one Democrat couldn’t agree on the early-voting plan. The state board stepped in and voted to support the county board’s Republicans in their plan to eliminate the on-campus voting site.

Seven county voters sued, saying the plan burdened younger voters. A state superior court judge agreed, saying the closure was to “discourage student voting.”

The lawsuit contended Foley’s “continual collaboration” with Stacy Eggers IV, the Watauga County government attorney and a former local elections board member, revealed a “partisan motive” behind the action.

Their correspondence, reviewed by AP, frequently refers to “the opposition” and “the other side.”

In early August, 2013, as a new county board with a Republican majority was about to be sworn in, Eggers asked Foley to examine proposals he expected would pass, including removing the early voting site from the university’s Plemmons Student Union.

A message from North Carolina's government, via Shutterstock

A message from North Carolina’s government, via Shutterstock

This episode is but the latest in a series of North Carolina officials who make it seem like their day job is to make it harder for Democrats — particularly students — to vote. In 2013, the state legislature pushed an actual poll tax on college students who vote on campus, threatening to revoke the state income tax deduction for parents whose dependents voted at an address other than their own. The state is also currently facing legal issues on multiple fronts, with a lawsuit concerning its photo ID requirement already underway and another over what look to be partisan irregularities in its voter registration procedures in the pipeline.

One of the reasons why students are such common targets in North Carolina is that North Carolina is a heavily inelastic swing state. It has been decided by a close margin in the last two presidential elections, but doesn’t have a lot of actual swing voters. With a large number of strong partisans split relatively evenly between Democrats and Republicans in the state, whichever candidate can turn out more of their base will win. For Democrats, that means turning out young voters. In 2008, President Obama won 74% of voters under 30 and lost all other age groups on his way to becoming the first Democrat to win the state since Jimmy Carter.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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