Time for careful reading by the Governor

By: - August 6, 2013 12:59 pm


When Governor Pat McCrory finally gets around to reading the voter suppression bill he promised last week to sign even though he admitted he wasn’t familiar with all its provisions, he will find a lot of changes to election laws that have nothing to do with requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls.

(It would be nice if McCrory reviewed the current law while he was at it, since he also said at a news conference that people can register to vote online, which is not true. Maybe expecting a governor to be familiar with existing election laws before he signs another one is too much to ask)

McCrory campaigned on the voter ID issue, constantly reminding voters that you need an ID to board an airplane or buy cold medicine, forgetting apparently that the right to fly or buy Sudafed is not guaranteed in the constitution.

The ID requirement at the very least will make it more difficult for many of the roughly 300,000 registered voters without a government-issued photo ID to exercise their constitutional right. Voters without IDs are more likely to be seniors, people with disabilities, and people of color, all demographic groups that generally support Democrats more than Republicans.

Young voters are generally more progressive too. That’s why the bill does not allow college IDs to be used at the polls.

The voter ID provisions are not about restoring voter confidence in elections as its supporters claim, they are about making it more likely that Republicans win elections. The bill is a thinly disguised Republican incumbent protection act.

There were hearings about voter ID at least, at which citizens had a chance to speak and voice their opposition to the creation of a new barrier to voting.

But only three pages of the legislation are about voter ID.

The other 46 pages make more than 20 other changes to current election laws, from reducing the number of days allowed for early voting, ending same day registration at early voting sites, ending straight party voting, and making it easier for vigilante poll observers to intimidate voters they don’t agree with.

No hearings were held on the changes made in those other 46 pages. The massive bill was rammed through the General Assembly in the waning hours of the session with no time for even many lawmakers to comprehend what they were voting on. The public had no chance to understand it.

No one can dispute that one clear goal of the legislation was to make it harder to vote. In addition to the reduction of early voting days and the end to same-day registration, pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds, an innovative way to increase voting by young people that was created with bipartisan support, will end. The justification for that was that Senator Bob Rucho’s teenage son was confused.

Eligible voters who mistakenly cast their ballots in the wrong precinct will no longer be allowed to cast provisional ballots.

Not too long ago, there seemed to be a consensus that lamented lower voter turnout, a recognition that democracy was better served when more people participated in it.

This new voter suppression law turns that upside down with its new barriers and restrictions.

And the bill doesn’t stop there. It also makes it easier for corporations to give money to political parties, allows wealthy individuals to give more money directly to candidates, and reduces how much the public will know about outside campaign expenditures.

Apparently, the folks running the General Assembly not only now believe that too many people are voting, they think big money does not have enough control over our elections and that we know too much about who is trying to influence who is elected to represent us.

Read carefully, Governor McCrory, all the way to last page. You haven’t signed the bill yet. There is still time to reject this unprecedented assault on our democracy.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066