GOP seeks sweeping election law rewrite

Just days from the end of session, House Republican leaders have unveiled a massive rewrite of the state's election laws.

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State Rep David Lewis
Laura Leslie

Just days from the end of session, House Republican leaders have unveiled a massive rewrite of the state’s election laws.

Senate Bill 47, introduced with little notice in House Elections this afternoon, would repeal same-day registration in North Carolina, ban straight-ticket voting, shorten the early-voting period by a week, and ban early voting on Sundays (popular with churches for “Souls to the Polls” voting drives).

It would also repeal publicly-financed elections for the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Insurance Commissioner and Treasurer.

The measure also makes changes to campaign finance, creating a new type of account at political parties – a “headquarters” account – that could accept corporate money for operational support, though not for electioneering purposes.

“This is just a compilation of ideas that have come from House members and Senate members,” said House Elections Chairman Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett.

“We do think it would improve the integrity of the elections process,” Lewis said. “And by not providing some of these services, we will save money.”

No public comment was allowed at the committee meeting.

Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, called it “worse than an abomination,” saying the measure was aimed squarely at election laws that had helped the Democrats win the White House in 2008.

“This bill is really anti-voter,” said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake. “It takes away every type of convenience and accessibility we’ve given to voters.”

After some debate, the committee amended the bill to remove the section that would repeal same-day voter registration. They made a couple other minor changes, too.

But Damon Circosta with the non-partisan Center for Voter Education says it’s still a bad bill all the way around.

“S47 would make it easier for big money to flow into politics,” Circosta said. “It includes all sorts of ways to make it harder for people to vote, while at the same time making it easier for moneyed interests to play the game.”

The measure lost its first committee vote Tuesday afternoon because some Republican committee members were not present. But Lewis says he’ll use a parliamentary maneuver to bring it back tonight or tomorrow when more Republicans are in the room.

“It’s ironic that they’re going to get to vote twice to restrict citizens’ ability to vote once,” Circosta responded.

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