North Carolina Republicans’ zeal to make voting harder seems to be catching on with the younger generation.
The leader of a college Republican chapter in the state was caught on camera telling a conservative group that it couldn’t register voters on campus Wednesday—the same day state leaders pledged to take their fight for a restrictive voting law to the Supreme Court.
“I just do not want to have people being registered to vote, whatsoever,” Leigh Thomas, chair of the High Point University College Republicans, said in the video, which was first published by Campus Reform, a conservative activist group.
In the video, Bree Binder, a member of the group Turning Point USA, asked Thomas for permission to enter the campus to register voters. At High Point, visitors to the campus are required to have permission from a student, according to Charlie Kirk, Turning Point’s executive director.
Binder, who filmed the encounter, expected Thomas would help, because Thomas had worked cooperatively with Turning Point in the past. Instead, Thomas said no.
“I’m just not sure if this is something I would want to have on this High Point University campus, the registration of voting [sic].”
Asked why, Thomas repeated: “I don’t approve of it whatsoever—on a campus like High Point University,” then reiterated: ”I don’t want to have any voting registration happening on this campus, with students.”
Later, she added: “If it’s not done the way we did it back in 2012, I’m not—I’m not good with it.”
Kirk said Binder ultimately gave up, and moved on to another campus. He said his group had reached out via phone and email to the High Point administration, but did not receive a response.
Neither Thomas nor the university’s college Republicans chapter responded to inquiries from msnbc. But the university administration said Thomas did nothing wrong.
“Because the safety and security of our students is our top priority, HPU asks that outside groups officially register to host activities or events through a recognized student group,” Pamela Haynes, a university spokeswoman, said via email. “We believe the student who was recorded on video without her consent was trying to reinforce this policy.”
Haynes said the university is a big supporter of voter registration efforts. “In 2012 alone, leading up to the presidential election, eight voter registration drives were held on campus,” she wrote.
In a statement, Matthew Donnellan, the executive director of the College Republican National Committee, sought to downplay the episode as “a misunderstanding between two college-aged individuals about on-campus activities. “
“Voter registration has always been a key aspect of the College Republicans’ efforts at the national and local level to get young people to the polls,” Donnellan added.
But for Turning Point, the episode was discouraging.
“We were disappointed,” said Kirk. He added that although students tend to vote Democratic, his group believes boosting participation rates among young people is a good thing.
“We kind of take a different view than the mainstream Republican conservative thought,” Kirk said. “We think the more young people that we can get engaged about issues and registered, the better.”
Thomas’s reluctance to support voter registration is in keeping with her party’s approach to registration issues. In Texas, Florida and other states, Republicans have passed restrictions on voter registration drives, which tend to target the poor, minorities and young people. The Texas Republican Party wants to repeal the National Voter Registration Act, which has helped register millions of voters over the last two decades.
And in North Carolina, Republican efforts to restrict voting have been in the spotlight lately, as the state hosts a tight Senate race. A federal court this week approved much of a sweeping Republican voting law for this fall’s elections. Now, state leaders are asking the Supreme Court to green-light the rest of it—including the elimination of same-day voter registration. Meanwhile, a Koch-backed group is being investigated for sending out inaccurate voting information.
It has been a week of controversy for the college Republicans. On Wednesday, the group unveiled a Web ad that showed a young woman choosing between political candidates as if she were picking a wedding dress on the reality TV show “Say Yes to the Dress.” An official with the group said the ad aimed to be “culturally relevant,” but many saw it as demeaning to young people and women.