NC GOP lawmakers continue to seek to limit voters

April 1, 2013 

Being in charge when new congressional and legislative districts had to be drawn following a Census provided a tremendous and potentially long-term edge for North Carolina Republicans. In 2012 they gained a 9-4 advantage in the U.S. House (it had been 7-6 Democratic) and solidified majorities in the state House and Senate, despite Democrats having a 43 percent to 31 percent advantage in voter registration.

But under the heading of “you can’t have too much insurance,” GOP members of the legislature and their Republican Gov. Pat McCrory are apparently seeking even more of an edge on the Democrats.

McCrory, in his proposed budget, supervised by his budget guru Art Pope, recommends ending the tax return check-off option to donate $3 to political parties. It was thought when adopted that the check-off, which is voluntary, might put money directly from the people into politics and thus reduce the influence of special interests. Most such laws, and North Carolina’s isn’t the only one, were enacted after the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, when confidence in government wasn’t exactly at an all-time high.

Initially, people could designate which party the money went to. Then, in 1983, it was changed to allocate the money based on party registration, which helped Democrats with their 12-point edge, percentage-wise.

The other stuff

That seems a fair way to split it, at least the fairest of anything that’s been suggested. But it would be better to return to the days of having taxpayers make the choice themselves than to just do away with it.

But that maneuver may be small potatoes compared to several Republican-sponsored bills that clearly would reduce participation by, among other groups, minorities, who tend to support Democrats. One bill would shorten the period for early voting, which statistically tends to benefit Democrats, as do other Republican targets for elimination, same-day registration (at early voting sites) and Sunday voting. And finally, some Republicans want to end straight-ticket voting. In 2012, Democrats cast 300,000 more straight ticket votes than did Republicans.

To boot, Republican want to loosen the rules on absentee ballots. Who casts the most absentees? Republicans.

Obviously, Republicans have just as much opportunity to work with their voting base to encourage early voting and same-day registration just as Democrats have used those laws to bolster their turnout. Instead, Republicans just want to change the rules.

Now, how is it exactly that legislating changes intended to lower turnout is good for this democracy? Isn’t the idea to get as many people to vote as possible? The more the merrier...and perhaps, the better the elected government?

Perhaps there’s something we’re missing here. Has there been a dropped sentence or phrase in the nation’s founding documents all these centuries about all “Republicans being created equal”?

Lack of confidence?

The proposals, all of them likely to pass, also are curious in that Republicans gained control of the General Assembly the old-fashioned way, in a straight-up fair fight with Democrats who’d perhaps grown complacent in power.

Do they not feel confident enough in what they’ve done and what they plan to do that they now think they need every advantage when it comes to the rules even if their rules might reduce participation? Don’t they think they can successfully stand for election and re-election on the merits of their ideas?

Since convening this legislative session, GOP leaders have moved ahead with a hard-right ideological agenda. They are going to pass that agenda and a governor from their party is going to let it stand.

In seeking to change the rules governing the method of elections, they are carrying that agenda way beyond the policy arena where it belongs.

And though Republicans may not care about critics as long as they can curb the number of Democrats registering to vote and going early to the polls, they will have to face the judgment of history.

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