• 25°

Revised bill would place sweeping new restrictions on voting

RALEIGH (AP) — A revised bill supported by Republicans at the North Carolina legislature would place sweeping new restrictions on when, where and how citizens can vote.
Legislation that advanced Tuesday in the Senate rules committee would cut the state’s early voting period by a week and eliminate same-day voter registration. It also increases restrictions on provisional voting and would eliminate straight-ticket voting.
The measure also repeals publicly funded elections for judicial races, increases the maximum individual campaign contribution from $4,000 to $5,000 and weakens disclosure requirements showing who pays for political ads.
The bill would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls. Student IDs issued by the state’s public universities and community colleges would not be accepted. The bill also ends the ability of high school students to register to vote in advance of their 18th birthday.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor, where Republicans outnumber Democrats nearly 2-to-1.
Republicans say the measures are necessary to combat voter fraud, which they claim is rampant and often goes undetected.
“People need to have confidence in the fact that everyone only votes once, and that their vote matters, and establish integrity in the electoral process,” said Sen. Bob Rucho, the Mecklenburg Republican who shepherded the bill through committee. “I would hope we can pass this bill and re-establish a level of integrity and confidence in the electoral system.”
Nonpartisan voting rights groups and Democrats point to the lack of evidence that such widespread fraud exists, suggesting the restrictions are instead aimed at suppressing voter turnout.
A Democratic analysis of records for the last six statewide elections, in which more than 30 million ballots were cast, shows elections officials confirmed only two cases of in-person voter fraud. State elections statistics also show those most likely to not have state-issued ID cards such as drivers licenses are the elderly, African-Americans and the poor — groups considered more likely to vote for Democrats.
“You’re going to have a situation with this bill where you’ve got people who voted all their lives that are going to show up at the polling place and not going to have what they need to vote,” said Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, the Senate minority leader. “That is outrageous.”
Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, cited statistics showing nearly three quarters of all voters had cast an early ballot. He challenged Rucho to explain how trimming the early voting period from 17 days to 10 days would be beneficial.
Rucho suggested that county elections boards would save money through the shortened schedule, funds that could potentially be spent to increase the number of early-voting locations. However, there is no requirement in the bill that county elections boards, which have Republican majorities, do so.
Nesbitt predicted North Carolina voters would soon face long lines, as has happened in other states where Republican legislatures had tightened voting rules.
“This is exactly what happened in Florida, where they didn’t have enough sites and people were lined up around the building,” Nesbitt said. “I’m concerned that is going to happen here. That will hurt your voters as much as it will hurt our voters. It’s just a bad deal.”
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 last month to effectively halt the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act, enacted to outlaw racial discrimination against voters in local, state and federal elections. North Carolina was among the states, mostly in the South, that were subjected to special federal enforcement, with requirements to get approval in advance before they could make even minor changes to voting laws.
The high court’s ruling cleared the way for North Carolina Republicans to enact voting law changes without having to obtain federal approval.
The state House passed the bill with the voter ID requirement in April, but Senate leaders waited until what is expected to be the last week of the legislative session to take up the measure and add a raft of additional voting restrictions.
During the nearly two-hour debate in the Senate rules committee, 10 members of the public were allowed to speak briefly. All criticized the bill.
Brent Laurenz, executive director of the nonpartisan N.C. Center for Voter Education, said he was deeply troubled that lawmakers would introduce such sweeping changes in the waning days of the legislative session.
“We have seen in other states what can happen when early voting is reduced: long lines, frustrated voters and overwhelmed poll workers,” Laurenz said. “Voting is among the most fundamental and sacred rights that we have as North Carolinians and as Americans. Any effort to limit the free exercise of that right should be examined cautiously, fairly and with full public involvement.”
As Laurenz and the others spoke, some Republican lawmakers rolled their eyes, talked among themselves or checked their smart phones for messages. When many in the audience twice applauded comments made by the opponents, rules committee chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, ordered members of the sergeant-at-arms staff to immediately clear the room of all who had clapped.
Bob Hall, executive director of the voting advocacy group Democracy North Carolina, warned the GOP lawmakers that the state’s voters would hold them responsible for what happens at the polls.
“You’re building your legacy here,” he told them. “Good luck to you.”

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Political Notebook: Interim health director to talk COVID-19 at county Democrats breakfast

Local

‘Their names liveth forevermore:’ Officials dedicate Fire Station No. 6 to fallen firefighters Monroe, Isler

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man charged for breaking into Salisbury high, getting juvenile to help

Nation/World

With virus aid in sight, Democrats debate filibuster changes

Local

City officials differ on how, what information should be released regarding viral K-9 officer video

High School

High school basketball: Carson girls are 3A champions

Lifestyle

High school, college sweethearts marry nearly 50 years later

Local

With jury trials set to resume, impact of COVID-19 on process looms

Legion baseball

Book explores life of Pfeiffer baseball coach Joe Ferebee

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education to receive update on competency-based education

Business

Biz Roundup: Kannapolis expects to see economic, housing growth continue in 2021

Business

A fixture of downtown Salisbury’s shopping scene, Caniche celebrates 15th anniversary this month

Local

Slate of new officers during local GOP convention; Rev. Jenkins becomes new chair

Landis

Landis officials narrow search for new manager to five candidates; expect decision within a month

Lifestyle

Together at last: High school, college sweethearts marry nearly 50 years later

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools sorts out transportation logistics in preparation for full-time return to classes

High School

Photo gallery: Carson goes undefeated, wins 3A state championship

Nation/World

Europe staggers as infectious variants power virus surge

Nation/World

Biden, Democrats prevail as Senate OKs $1.9 trillion virus relief bill

Nation/World

Senate Democrats strike deal on jobless aid, move relief bill closer to approval

News

Duke Life Flight pilot may have shut down wrong engine in fatal crash

News

Two NC counties get to participate in satellite internet pilot for students

Local

PETA protesters gather in front of police department

Coronavirus

UPDATED: Eight new COVID-19 deaths, 203 positives reported in county this week