Editorial

Early voting sites reveal Tony's temper

A Wake County commissioner’s attack on early voting sites seems calculated.

August 10, 2012 

Republican leaders of the General Assembly tried to pass a law requiring photo identification of voters, but thankfully it was vetoed by Gov. Beverly Perdue. Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis, who of course favored the measure, couldn’t gather the votes for an override in the House, so the issue went away, likely just for a while.

The main argument for the measure was that it would prevent voter fraud, which is not a problem in North Carolina. Opponents rightly accused the advocates of the bill of playing pure politics: the bill, they said, was designed to suppress turnout of minority, poor and elderly voters, some of whom might lack conventional forms of identification because they didn’t have driver’s licenses and who might be inclined to...you guessed it...vote Democratic.

That pesky tendency to vote for Democrats also is why Republicans aren’t crazy about the idea of early voting. In 2008, the majority of early voters did indeed vote Democratic.

But there’s nothing partisan about the process. Republicans can vote early just as easily as Democrats can. Really.

Gurley’s view

So given the partisan viewpoints on the issue, the argument from Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley, proud Republican, that a list of early voting sites approved by the county Board of Elections was skewed in favor of Democrats is itself pretty partisan and churlish. And Gurley also made noise that he and his fellow Republicans on the commissioners’ board, which they control, might just decide to cut funding for voting sites.

Apparently, one of the things that ticked Gurley off was that the board approved four of 15 sites as ones (in addition to the central office downtown) that would be open 15 days, four longer than the other sites. Gurley says three of those four are in heavily Democratic areas. The four sites include one in Cary (no problem there for Gurley) and one at N.C. State University, and Chavis and Optimist Parks in Raleigh.

It’s no secret that GOP operatives believe a lower turnout favors their candidates, particularly a lower turnout among young and minority voters. But early voting isn’t about satisfying one party or another’s strategists. It’s about giving people every opportunity to participate in a little something we call Democracy.

People love it

And early voting happens to be wildly popular. In North Carolina in 2008, almost 2.6 million people voted early or by mail. That number represented more than 40 percent of registered voters. In 2004, the number was 1.1 million.

The chance to vote early, contrary to what some Republicans believe, is not attractive just to Democrats. Those who have physical handicaps may find it’s easier for them. Others may fear long lines at precincts on Election Day, something that might be more difficult to handle for older people.

But all Gurley and some other Republicans can see is that the county Board of Elections (two Democrats and one Republican) and the state Board of Elections (three Democrats and two Republicans) are controlled by the party to which they don’t happen to belong. Therefore, the logic goes, the whole early voting deal must be a set-up. Is the process pure and entirely free of politics? Perhaps not, but the system as it stands is hardly going to steal an election for anybody.

If Republicans can come up with legitimate reasons why more early voting sites are needed in what they would call Republican-leaning areas, then let them make the case to the state board and be prepared to appropriate more money to pay for them.

Some Democrats, by the way, think 15 sites isn’t a big enough number considering the county’s growth. In other words, neither party came out of the process deliriously happy. That’s probably a good thing.

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