Under the Dome

Dome: Bills would shorten early voting period, make absentee voting more flexible

FROM STAFF REPORTSMarch 29, 2013 

New bills would change the way North Carolinians vote.

The state’s early voting period would be shortened and Sunday voting eliminated under one bill. House Bill 451 from House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell County, also would eliminate straight-ticket voting and same-day registration. And it would make nonpartisan judicial elections partisan.

The bill could help Republicans.

It would lop a week off the early-voting period, which Democrats have used more successfully than Republicans. It would also stop straight-ticket voting. Democrats cast 300,000 more straight tickets than Republicans in 2012. And by ending Sunday voting, it would stop the heavily Democratic “Souls to the Polls” efforts to get voters out after Sunday church services.

The bill also loosens the requirements for getting an absentee ballot. Under current law, the county of board elections can only issue an absentee ballot to the voter who has made a written request. That rule is gone under the new law which requires only a written request “signed by the requester.” In other words, anyone can come in with one or more written requests and gain absentee ballots.

Meanwhile, a bill introduced by Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville would eliminate public financing of judicial and other statewide races now eligible for it.

Highway Patrol centers

Gov. Pat McCrory is proposing to close three of the state’s eight Highway Patrol Communications centers in a move that officials say is aimed at consolidation and government efficiencies.

The governor’s budget proposes to close communications centers in Asheville, Greensboro and Williamston that officials say will eliminate 36 civilian positions and save $1.88 million.

As part of the consolidation, 12 other civil positions will be moved to other Highway Patrol communications centers. In addition, 10 vacant positions at the three centers will be eliminated.

Officials said that with new communications equipment, they will be able to fill in the gap.

“With advancements in technology, we will be able to manage this reorganization and do not anticipate any impact on response times,” Kieran Shanahan, the public safety secretary, said in a statement.

Democrats try again

Democrats in the state House and Senate filed bills this week that would prohibit state and local governments from making employment decisions based on a person’s sexual orientation.

Equality NC plans to promote the bills when supporters come to the Legislative Building on April 16.

Supporters have failed for years to get this legislation passed. When Democrats ran the legislature, getting a committee to hear the bill was a notable event.

Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat who filed this session’s Senate bill, sponsored an identical bill last session that died in the Senate Rules Committee.

Dinner with the McCrorys

The state trooper who was shot during a traffic stop in Durham will be joining Gov. Pat McCrory and his wife for a steak and lobster dinner at the mansion, the governor said Thursday.

McCrory invited Trooper Michael Potts and his family to dinner as a way of saying thanks for his service. McCrory made the remarks during a swearing-in ceremony for new State Highway Patrol leaders at the State Capitol.

Potts was shot in the face, shoulder and both hands when he pulled over a car last month. A Vermont man, Mikel Brady II, is in jail. Police said they found what appeared to be bomb-making materials and a map showing the locations of police, fire and emergency medical services in Durham when they searched the apartment where Brady had been staying with his girlfriend.

Potts is expected to fully recover and return to duty.

Staff writers John Frank, Rob Christensen, Craig Jarvis and Charlotte Observer staff writer Jim Morrill

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