Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 2, 2013
As state Republican leaders consider new voting restrictions designed to enhance their hold on power, our local representatives should ask themselves who’s really going to be hurt if these proposals become law.
Take the proposal to truncate one-stop early voting, chopping the current 2 1/2 week early voting window to one week. Early voting has been a great success, with about 56 percent of N.C. voters in the 2012 general election taking advantage of the flexibility and convenience it offers. Why would Republicans want to end such a popular mechanism? Because statewide, more Democrats (1.2 million) than Republicans (765,683) participated in early voting. But dig down into communities like Rowan, and that doesn’t hold true.
In Rowan, early voters accounted for 32,338 ballots in the general election (more than half of the 62,752 total votes cast). Republicans took a clear majority of those votes in every partisan race except for one — the 12th Congressional District, won by Democrat Mel Watt. Republican gubernatorial winner Pat McCrory took 64 percent of the early ballots cast in Rowan. Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler garnered 60 percent of them. Rep. Harry Warren claimed 56 percent of the early ballots in winning re-election. In the two county commission contests, Republican winners Mike Caskey and Craig Pierce also had the highest totals of early votes cast. You’d think local Republicans might have some objections to gutting a system that clearly favored them in the general election.
Or consider the proposal to end straight-ticket voting. Statewide, more straight-ticket voters favored Democrats than Republicans in the past general election. But in Rowan, Republicans held the advantage here, too, with 57 percent of straight-ticket ballots.
Those are just two of the voter restrictions under consideration. GOP leaders made a voter photo ID law one of their top legislative priorities, despite lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud. Now, along with the proposals outlined above, they may also end same-day voter registration and Sunday voting. What’s next — limiting counties to one polling site, open between noon and 2 p.m. on Election Day?
Republican leaders say this is really about cutting costs, not cutting into Democratic turnout. But the political implications are obvious. It may be that, if passed, these measures will give the GOP a temporary advantage in statewide races. That’s obviously not the case in Rowan and other communities where Republican candidates don’t need such ballot shenanigans to succeed — and voters don’t need longer waits in line on Election Day.