Editorials: Old voting law helped GOP

Published 8:01 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2017

North Carolina Republicans were frustrated last summer when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state’s new voting law, calling it “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow.”

The decision hardly hurt the party at the polls, though.

Here’s the back story: When the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly passed a new voting law in 2013, the practice of same-day registration appeared doomed. The law attempted to do away with early voting and the registration that went on at the polls during that period.

The court blocked the new law, and voting went on as usual in the fall of 2016, with the old law in effect.

Revealing analysis of the vote came out last week from Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan group that advocates increased voter participation. Three out of four Republican women voted, a record for that group. Turnout was also high among Republican men, at 75 percent, and Democratic women, at 72 percent. Meanwhile, turnout among Democratic men was about 10 points lower than their Republican counterparts, and nearly half of young voters (ages 18-25) sat this election out.

As the results clearly indicated, sticking to the old voting law did not hurt North Carolina Republicans. In fact, same-day voting was a boon to GOP candidates, according to Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina. Hall said Trump and other Republicans were helped by a surge of new white voters who used same-day registration during early voting at a higher rate than Democrats. “Republicans were 30 percent of registered voters in October 2016 but 34 percent of the first-time voters who used same-day registration to cast a ballot,” said a Democracy North Carolina press release.

Even though nonwhite voters disproportionately used same-day registration, they were still outnumbered by  Republicans who were able to vote only by using same-day registration.

Gov. Pat McCrory, left out of the victory parade in November, made noise about voter fraud, but provisional ballots and other reviews only increased Democrat Roy Cooper’s lead. Others in the country are still trying to undermine confidence in the U.S. voting system with speculation about illegal votes; so far no proof has surfaced.

Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch was eloquent on the subject of voting rights. “The ability of Americans to have a voice in the direction of their country — to have a fair and free opportunity to help write the story of this nation — is fundamental to who we are and who we aspire to be,” Lynch said. That goes for people of all races and all political persuasions.

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