RALEIGH – You might see some changes in the way you vote in future elections, and some say these proposed changes are not for the better, calling it an attack on voter rights.
The Senate Rules Committee passed House Bill 589 Tuesday after two hours of debate, which has been in limbo since the House approved it several months ago. Now it is back and has been revamped to include provisions that go far beyond the initial controversial voter I.D.’s proposal.
Matt Hughes, Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, says the new version of the bill will impact how North Carolinians vote on multiple levels.
“The long title of the Voter I.D. Bill is about restoring confidence in elections,” Hughes says. “Unfortunately, the actions of the legislature are not doing a lot for the confidence in our elected and political leaders in North Carolina. In fact, I believe it is diminishing that confidence significantly.”
In addition to legislation requiring specific photo identification, it proposes to shorten the two-and-a-half week early-voting period by a week and eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting, among other provisions.
“In 2008, I think the party that benefited the most from early voting was the Democrats. However, by the 2012 election, everyone, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, it doesn’t matter who you poll, they are supportive of it,” Hughes says. “They are supportive of expanding early voting. It’s convenient, it makes voting more accessible, and it really allows people to go in and vote at their convenience.”
About 57 percent of the votes cast in last fall’s election in North Carolina were done during early voting, WRAL reports.
“It’s really convenient to be able to go and early vote and possibly change or update your registration, or maybe register for the first time during the early voting period,” Hughes says. “And that’s another thing that is removed from this bill is that you will not be able to do the same-day registration that is currently allowed under the law.”
Hughes says he questions the motives behind this bill and feels that the legislature strategically waited for a ruling by the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act. The election law changes normally would have to be subject to authorization, but the Supreme Court’s decision exempted North Carolina from federal review until a new process is created by Congress.
“There are just a lot of bad ideas in this Voter I.D. Bill, which itself is just a terrible idea. I think it comes down to maneuvering the electorate in a way that continues to perpetuate the status quo.”
Some have criticized bringing this bill up during the final days of the legislative session, but Hughes says it is symptomatic of this General Assembly.
Voting rights groups planted plastic pink flamingos in the lawn outside the Legislative Building Tuesday morning to remind N.C. lawmakers that Florida reduced its early voting period in the 2012 election, cutting early voting from 14 to eight days. According to state officials, this led to six-hour lines on the final day of early voting, and an estimated 200,000 Florida voters gave up with out casting their ballots.
If the Senate passes this bill, it will then have to pass in the House, where many anticipate disagreement over certain provisions.