Leslee Kulba

Rundown of NC Election Reform

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By Leslee Kulba –

House Bill 589 was signed into law, agitating progressive camps to rally in defense of minorities. On the surface, complaining against the closing of windows for fraud and abuse (Citizens may still waste their votes.) looks like self-incrimination. But the race card, like the job creation card, is a wild card that works in any situation.

The most notorious change supports the old-fashioned spirit of one person, one vote. It requires voters to produce an ID card bearing a photo that has to look like the carrier, too. Acceptable forms include driver’s licenses, military ID’s, and US passports. Detractors responded, clamoring minorities don’t typically drive, serve in the military, or purchase alcohol, and so the legislation was racist. Legislators anticipated the flak by giving minorities and others without photo ID two years to get themselves to a DMV office to obtain a free voter’s card. State offices will even be required to produce duplicate birth and marriage certificates for those needing them to establish their ID. Exemptions are also provided for, for example, persons who refuse to be photographed for religious reasons and those who lose their ID’s in major disasters preceding elections.

Same-day registration is now a thing of the past. It would be a wonder if the practice, combined with no ID requirement, was never abused by ballot stuffers. To vote in an election, a voter’s registration must now be received by the appropriate board of elections at least twenty-five days beforehand.

Sixteen and seventeen year olds will no longer be able to pre-register, but they must now wait until they are eighteen and register to vote. High school curricula will require, among other things, a requirement that students write to a legislator on an issue of importance to them. A provision that would have allowed college students to have it both ways was cut from the final version of the bill. At one time, the revisions would have required students claiming to be dependents at their parents’ address for tax purposes to relinquish their claim to a different college address for voting purposes.

Another provision makes voting by absentee ballot slightly more difficult. Starting in 2014, absentee voters will request ballots on state-generated forms, and their ballots must be either notarized or signed by two witnesses, neither of which may be a candidate or an “employee of certain adult care homes.” Assistance teams will be created to help disabled eligible voters complete their ballots in the absence of available family members or guardians.

Hours for early voting were also changed. Before, precincts could be open seventeen days before an election. Now, they may only be open ten days. That said, counties must offer the same number of early voting hours as they did in previous elections. That may be accomplished by extending hours on a single day or opening more locations. Early voting is a convenience for many, but it was problematic to parties concerned about the potential for treating uninformed voters as useful idiots by the notorious cheat-sheet distributing van drivers.

Starting next year, Election Day hours may only be extended with the authorization of the State Board of Elections. The authority to extend in the event of last-minute rushes has been relinquished by counties.

Henceforth, no mercy will be shown for voters who report to the wrong precinct on Election Day. In the past, selections of disoriented voters would be counted in races in which the voter was qualified to vote. The law essentially says it is the responsibility of the voters, and not election workers, to make sure they cast their ballots in the correct places.

Other parts of the law pertain to ballots. As a symbolic deterrent to uneducated voters, the straight-party fill-in bubble will no longer be available. Voters will be required to fill in each candidate’s bubble separately. Instant runoff voting (IRV) has also been eliminated. The system, which had strong support from Democrats, presumably saved money by eliminating runoff elections in the event of a tie. It required voters to read two pages of instructions which advocates claimed were simple. In effect, the system did disenfranchise people without higher education, who are also typically low-income. Also eliminated are electronic ballots. Requiring a paper trail for canvassing purposes is forcing some jurisdictions to invest in new voting machines.

Portions of the law pertain to how outreach and registration drives may be conducted. Others make it easier to remove the names of deceased persons from the rolls. Before, names remained on the rolls long after persons were reported to be deceased. Concerns persist, however, that people may falsely report deaths of people of other political persuasions. Communication with other states is encouraged to reduce the possibility of people being registered outside the precinct of their local residence.

Other parts of the law pertain to candidate filing and reporting, campaign contributions, and lobbying. Of particular note is the elimination of public financing of elections, otherwise known as candidate welfare. The system was implemented to allow candidates who did not have the backing of big money machines to compete; it also gave a strategic advantage to candidates who held stances on issues that were too unpopular to garner substantial contributions. Public financing of elections was eliminated on the grounds that taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize opinions that upset their free exercise of conscience.

The law also calls for nine studies. Subjects range from voter assistance to precinct sizes to how campaign committees should file finance reports.

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