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Senate backs sweeping elections bill

Posted July 24, 2013

— The Senate gave key approval Wednesday to legislation that radically alters how voting will be conducted in North Carolina in future elections.

House Bill 589 passed by a 32-14 vote. A final vote is expected Thursday, and the House would then have to agree with the myriad changes the Senate made to what started out as a measure to require voters to show photo identification at the polls.

The extreme makeover of the bill by Senate Republicans added changes to voter registration, early voting and campaign financing, among others, and prompted a sit-in in Speaker Thom Tillis' office by protesters demanding that the proposals be scrapped.

Six people were arrested, police said.

"This bill will bring up to date an archaic and outdated election code," said Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg. "It will go a long way to building confidence among voters and citizens in the process."

Black lawmakers, however, suggested that it's the changes that are archaic and would thrust North Carolina back to a time when minorities were systematically prevented from voting.

"How appalling is this legislation that takes the great state of North Carolina back to the days ... of the Jim Crow South?" said Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford.

Democrats blasted the bill, which cuts the early voting period from 17 to 10 days, prohibits counties from extending early voting hours on the Saturday before Election Day to accommodate crowds and eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting.

"You are inconveniencing the people of North Carolina," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake.

Sit-in in Tillis' office Six arrested in sit-in at legislature

Stein noted that 900,000 people voted during the first week of early voting last fall, and squeezing the early voting period will create longer lines and frustrate people who want to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

He was able to win Republican backing of an amendment requiring counties to provide an equal number of hours of early voting in the 10-day period as they have had during 17 days by opening more early voting sites or keeping them open longer.

An attempt to retain the 17-day early voting period for presidential elections failed, even though Sen. Ben Clark, D-Cumberland, argued that a longer period would help military personnel, who sometimes have training activities that would make it difficult for them to get to a polling place.

Other provisions in the revamped bill include the following:

  • Eliminate pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, who currently can register to vote before they turn 18.
  • Outlaw paid voter registration drives.
  • Eliminate straight-ticket voting.
  • Eliminate provisional voting if someone shows up at the wrong precinct.
  • Prohibit counties from extending poll hours by one hour on Election Day in extraordinary circumstances, such as in response to long lines. Those in line at closing time would still be allowed to vote.
  • Allow any registered voter of a county to challenge the eligibility of a voter rather than just a voter of the precinct in which the suspect voter is registered.
  • Move the presidential primary to first Tuesday after South Carolina's primary if that state holds its primary before March 15. That would mean North Carolina would have two primaries during presidential elections.
  • Study electronic filing for campaign returns.
  • Increase the maximum allowed campaign contribution per election from $4,000 to $5,000.
  • Loosen disclosure requirements in campaign ads paid for by independent committees.
  • Repeal the publicly funded election program for appellate court judges.
  • Repeal the requirement that candidates endorse ads run by their campaigns.

The voter ID requirement also is more restrictive than the proposal the House passed in April by prohibiting university students from using their college IDs.

Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, called the raft of changes "some of the worst tactics we could put together" and said, combined, they would "hurt an awful, awful lot of people."

"We need a level playing field, and this bill doesn't provide it," McKissick said.

Sen. Ron Rabin, R-Harnett, said recent legislation called for people to show photo ID to pick up a pet from an animal shelter, so requiring that much to cast ballot isn't unreasonable.

voting, early voting, one-stop voting, vote GOP defends push for elections changes

"I believe we should protect the integrity of the voting process, but this bill goes beyond that ... to restrict access to voting," said Sen. Joel Ford, D-Mecklenburg. "We should be expanding the voting process for all while protecting the voting process."

Rucho argued that 30 other states already have voter ID regulations, 35 prohibit straight-ticket voting and 41 states don't allow same-day registration and voting.

"It's intellectually dishonest to say this bill is about election reform," said Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg. "It's not about doing what other states are doing. They're already doing what we're doing here – taking away the right to vote."

Graham called the proposal the latest jobs bill for the Republican majority, suggesting it would create work for attorneys experienced in election law.

"This is about winning. Putting in place artificial barriers," he said.

Graham tried to reinstate pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and same-day registration and allow the use of college IDs at the polls, but Republicans used parliamentary procedure to table it without debate or a formal vote.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said same-day registration creates havoc and the opportunity for voter fraud. Many North Carolina residents are clamoring for ways to guarantee that elections are above-board, he said.

"This is good, common-sense voter integrity election law, and not a single soul will be disenfranchised," Tillman said.

Amendments that backed a continuation of straight-ticket voting and that would have allowed people without a photo ID to cast a ballot by meeting the requirements of mail-in absentee voters also failed.

Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, said straight-ticket voting is more efficient, and eliminating it would disproportionately affect minority voters.

Rucho shot back that the bill's provisions are "not designed on race in any manner" and are only to ensure equal access to voting for people statewide.

The lengthy and often heated debate devolved at one point into a discussion of logic and statistics, and Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Madison, even suggested that a lack of voter ID might have suppressed minority participation in recent elections in North Carolina.

"Voter fraud is still very real in this state," Hise said. "Whatever we can do to protect the integrity of that system ... is a common-sense measure."

Noting that Gov. Pat McCrory has repeatedly pointed to areas of state government that need to be fixed, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, said voting statewide isn't broken.

"I cannot find anything in this bill that makes it easier for people to vote," Nesbitt said. "You're making it more difficult for people to vote ... and all of these things will suppress the vote."

243 Comments

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  • Dnut Jul 26, 2:24 p.m.

    Say I know my 90 year old grandfather has no intention of voting because he has dementia and resides in a nursing home. What is to keep me from walking up to the polls, telling them I am him, and voting? And also voting as myself.
    It is a hole that THANKFULLY is being closed.
    I think we all know there is a certain segment of society that would rather Obama win than to BREATHE. You can't tell me a subset of them did not go to the polls multiple times and vote. There is no doubt about it. There are people that have never voted in their lives that got out to vote for Obama. And that would otherwise be a GREAT thing... as long as they limited themselves to a single vote for the man.
    PackFanForLife
    July 26, 2013 10:34 a.m.
    >>> "A great thing"? I wouldn't go that far.....

  • Dnut Jul 26, 2:23 p.m.

    "The former Ohio poll worker who admitted flat-out to voting twice for President Barack Obama in November was convicted Tuesday of illegal voting, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported."

    I've heard four people give specific proof of voter fraud over the last couple days. Each time, it's been that exact same, single example. You guys do realize that no matter how many times you mention the same single incident, it still only counts as one example, right?

    So what do you have beyond a single proven example of voter fraud in Ohio to support making it more difficult for thousands of NC voters to exercise their Constitutional right?
    jackflash123
    July 25, 2013 6:59 p.m.
    >>>and what evidence do you have that this will hinder anyone? All they have to do, is get an ID, DMV all day long, can get them made there. Oh, you just believe that something for making something as important as voting shouldn't be sured up or have the public confidence in it, now that we can...I see.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again03 Jul 26, 10:34 a.m.

    Say I know my 90 year old grandfather has no intention of voting because he has dementia and resides in a nursing home. What is to keep me from walking up to the polls, telling them I am him, and voting? And also voting as myself.

    It is a hole that THANKFULLY is being closed.

    I think we all know there is a certain segment of society that would rather Obama win than to BREATHE. You can't tell me a subset of them did not go to the polls multiple times and vote. There is no doubt about it. There are people that have never voted in their lives that got out to vote for Obama. And that would otherwise be a GREAT thing... as long as they limited themselves to a single vote for the man.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again03 Jul 26, 10:31 a.m.

    There is one PROVEN example. What we also have is a wide-open OPPORTUNITY for voter fraud with little to no chance of detection.

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it happens. But some would rather keep their heads in the sand than admit it.

  • jackflash123 Jul 25, 6:59 p.m.

    "The former Ohio poll worker who admitted flat-out to voting twice for President Barack Obama in November was convicted Tuesday of illegal voting, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported."

    I've heard four people give specific proof of voter fraud over the last couple days. Each time, it's been that exact same, single example. You guys do realize that no matter how many times you mention the same single incident, it still only counts as one example, right?

    So what do you have beyond a single proven example of voter fraud in Ohio to support making it more difficult for thousands of NC voters to exercise their Constitutional right?

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again03 Jul 25, 6:10 p.m.

    Cary P, there are SEVERAL states that require photo ID for voting. Not just Texas. People will have time to get IDs before the next election. If this was November 1st, and was taking effect for THAT election, you'd have a point. People have more than ample time to figure out what they have to do and do it.

  • Cary Progressive Jul 25, 5:19 p.m.

    "BubbaDuke, Very well stated and you hit the nail right on the head. Thank you. -makeadiff"

    Yea bo, he hit the nail on the head. For the white supremacist point of view.

    Huge percentages of black men end up in prison while whites, who consume the same % of drugs, don't. That's a white supremacist based system. Your day of reckoning will come. Progress comes in fits and starts but history shows we are overcoming your evil.

  • makeadiff Jul 25, 5:09 p.m.

    Please read this comment posted earlier by BubbaDuke. It addresses the problems here perfectly.
    "Nobody is keeping minorities from voting except for themselves. They drop out of school, they wind up in prison, they let other people think for them and lead them astray. In America today, if you haven't yet taken advantage of the educational system, the affirmative action programs, the GED's, Smart Start, voter registration at the DMV and the library, then you are just too lazy to have any say in who governs this country. Stop complaining and playing the victim card. You're a victim by choice, but not of the white man or the GOP; rather by the people you listen to and who you allow to brainwash you to thinking the world owes you something."

    BubbaDuke, Very well stated and you hit the nail right on the head. Thank you.

  • Cary Progressive Jul 25, 5:08 p.m.

    PackFanForLife, you should be worried because federal judges have already sided with the fed govt on these regressive laws in the case of Texas' attempts to suppress the vote of minorities and poor people, many of whom don't have the means or time off work to get new birth certificates, which are required to get ID. You know all this but your cynicism and crass partisanship rules your world. And luckily most voters think the NC GOP is crass and partisan, per the 22% drop in support over just 3 months time.

    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2013/07/abortion-bill-hurting-nc-republicans.html

  • Bill Brasky Jul 25, 4:43 p.m.

    "Here is the articl from the Charlotte Observer
    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/04/11/3976842/no-voter-fraud-in-north-carolina.html"

    Written by Lt Governor Dan Forrest a Republican. In his article he mentions provisional ballots as possible cases for fraud, however he offers no proof of fraud considering provisional ballots are filled out whenever a citizen goes to the wrong polling place, switches houses, or when a name is left off a precinct. There has always been large amounts of provisional ballots and this law changes nothing with the way poll workers handle provisional ballots. try again.

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