Editorial: Final rush on voter laws

  • Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 12:39 a.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 8:59 a.m.

When Republican legislative leaders vowed to impose a photo ID requirement for North Carolina voters, they insisted their motives were pure. They were simply concerned about voter fraud, even though there’s probably more credible evidence for the existence of Big Foot than for widespread voter fraud in North Carolina.

But Tuesday in the N.C. Senate, North Carolinians got a much clearer picture of the extreme measures N.C. Senate Republicans are willing to approve in order to change state voting procedures — and, it inevitably follows, change the makeup of the voters who will turn out at election time. What may have started out as an unnecessary photo ID requirement now shows signs of morphing into a bare-knuckled attempt to turn back the clock on years of ballot access measures that have made voting easier and more convenient for citizens of every age, race, creed and political persuasion.

Here are the high — or low — points of the voting changes being considered in the Senate’s legislation:

n It would reduce acceptable forms of photo ID to only those issued by the government — i.e., driver’s licenses, passports, state-issued ID cards and military identification — while rejecting any form of college ID, including those issued by the UNC system and community colleges.

n It would cut a week off the early voting period.

n It would end same-day voter registration.

n It would increase restrictions on provisional voting, which gives lawful voters recourse when their legitimacy is questioned at the polls.

n While restricting ballot access, it increases politicians’ access to campaign funds, raising the donation cap from $4,000 to $5,000, while limiting disclosure requiments for money spent by outside political organizations that sponsor TV ads and use mass mailings.

It’s no coincidence that these measures have emerged in the final rush to adjournment, when a lot of bad bills suddenly appear or re-appear. It’s also probably no coincidence that this more restrictive voter law package follows last month’s Supreme Court ruling that eviscerated a key portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Voting rights activists feared the court’s ruling would encourage more restrictive voting requirements at the state level, and that is what is happening here.

Republicans who took office saying you just can’t trust big government with the important stuff are now turning around and using intrusive, unnecessary legislative measures to manipulate the most hallowed right citizens have. Apparently, you just can’t trust the voters, either.

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