RALEIGH — Millbrook High School government teacher Brian Schneidewind has perused 2,000 voter registration forms filled out by high school students, many of them 16- and 17-year-olds.
“I don’t see fraud,” he said Tuesday during a Senate committee meeting, where lawmakers were debating a recently expanded piece of voter ID legislation. The bill ends preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, adding another restriction on young voters to a bill that already disallowed college IDs as valid photo identification for voting. Republicans said they added such provisions to prevent voter fraud.
As the Millbrook voter registration drive’s sponsor, Schneidewind travels from classroom to classroom, asking eligible students whether they’d like to register. The students can’t vote until they’re 18, but preregistration has been part of an effort to get young people engaged in politics.
Schneidewind said the bill would reduce voter turnout at a time when voter apathy is growing.
“Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of telling my students that this is a government of the people, for the people and by the people,” Schneidewind said. “And if this bill passes, I’m going to have a little bit harder time looking my students in the eye and telling them the same thing.”
Proponents of preregistration say it’s convenient for young potential voters to register at school or at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
“They’re going to the DMV, and at that time, … when you’re 16, you go get your license, you register to vote,” said Robert Nunnery, president of the UNC Association of Student Governments. “If we can streamline the process earlier, it helps everybody.”
Nunnery’s organization favors the House version of the voter ID bill, which allows students at state colleges to use their student IDs. He said the student IDs add some necessary flexibility for people without driver’s licenses.
Less than 70 percent of 19-year-olds have a driver’s license, according to a 2012 study from an issue of Traffic Injury Prevention. It found that the percentage of young people without driver’s licenses has dropped in the past 30 years.
Nunnery dismisses the argument bill supporters use that school IDs are easier to duplicate than those issued by the DMV. He said he’s amused by the idea because he knows so many more people who use fake state IDs than fake student IDs.
“You just need to make sure that’s who they say they are,” said Alexander Fux, who will be a senior at UNC Pembroke in the fall. “They both have a picture and have their name on them. … You don’t have to have a bunch of information. You don’t need the address and the height to go vote.”