Dome: 2010 NC law allowing 16-year-olds to pre-register means thousands more could vote this November

FROM STAFF REPORTSSeptember 18, 2012 

More than 60,000 North Carolina teenagers will be eligible to vote this November because of a state law allowing people to pre-register as young as 16 years old.

Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan election reform organization, said that’s enough to decide the outcome of many close races, but he said it’s difficult to guess how exactly that will shift the balances.

An analysis by Democracy N.C. indicates 30 percent are affiliating with the Democratic Party and the same amount are signing up with the Republican Party. One percent is aligning with the Libertarian Party, and 39 percent are choosing none of the parties.

These young voters “are more independent and more inclined to evaluate candidates without relying on party labels,” Hall said.

The preregistration law took effect Jan. 1, 2010, after being passed with wide bipartisan support. The idea was to get youth interested in voting early and make it easy, allowing them to pre-register when they get their driver’s license or at school voting drives.

Five other states allow citizens to preregister, but North Carolina’s law is the only one that requires election officials to hold drives in high schools each year during Citizens Awareness Month, Hall said. Gov. Bev Perdue has proclaimed September Citizens Awareness Month in North Carolina. While you can pre-register at 16, you still have to be 18 to vote in a general election.

State lawmaker feels misled

Rep. W.A. “Winkie” Wilkins believes he and his colleagues in the General Assembly were misled by a lobbyist for the N.C. Bail Agents Association.

That claim comes from court documents filed Monday in Wake County Superior Court. A hearing will decide whether a company that trains bail bondsmen gets an injunction to keep its doors open amid its lawsuit against the state.

In an affidavit, Wilkins, a Democrat whose district stretches between Durham and Person counties, said key information was omitted when the House Insurance Committee was presented a revised version of Senate Bill 738. The bill signed into law props up the longtime training provider, the N.C. Bail Agents Association, and has the recently formed N.C. Bail Academy on the brink of closing.

Wilkins said in the affidavit that he has realized since supporting the bill through that not all bondsmen support the change.

“More importantly, I have since learned that, unbeknownst to myself and others, there were two organizations approved to offer bail bond education,” Wilkins said. “We were led to believe that (NCBAA) was the only provider and this bill would make it official.

“Had the bill been presented in a more forthright manner, I feel the discussion would have been entirely different.”

Wilkins said he plans to work to amend the “unfortunate result” of the bill when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

Dellinger’s take on races

Hampton Dellinger lists North Carolina’s top five political races in a recent piece penned for The Atlantic magazine’s website. Not surprisingly big names like John Edwards, Jesse Helms and James Holshouser dominate the list.

President Barack Obama’s 2008 win gets a shout-out at the end – though not officially ranked among the North Carolina-specific contests. And not surprisingly, the current Walter Dalton v. Pat McCrory contest doesn’t appear destined for fame.

Dome asked Dellinger, a Democrat, to size up the current governor’s race and presidential battle in light of his list.

He writes: “Question for McCrory is can he duplicate the centrist path to victory used by Holshouser and Martin? Given how Democratic-leaning North Carolina voters have stayed in gubernatorial races, it is clear that the 1972 GOP victory was a big deal and not one easily duplicated. As for the presidential race, I do think that a second statewide victory by Obama would be truly historic. As I mention in the piece, many were convinced that Obama’s 2008 win was an aberration. If he carries the state again, I think it would be the hands-down winner in terms of most significant win at the presidential race level in our state’s political history going back to 1950.”

Staff writers Austin Baird and John Frank

Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com.

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