During what now feels like a lost golden age, most North Carolina lawmakers once thought it was a good thing if more people voted. North Carolina was among the nations leaders in making it easier to register and allowing a generous window of time for early voting.
The effects of fostering better voter turnout showed in 2008 when Barack Obama became the first black president in part because of North Carolinas surprising support from new voters.
With Obamas election, the consensus that encouraging maximum participation seemed to evaporate. Republican-controlled state legislatures raised alarms about voter fraud. They began passing laws that make it harder to register and to vote. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University reports that at least 90 bills restricting voting were introduced in 33 states this year. In an encouraging opposing trend, 10 states passed 13 bills that aimed to make it easier for citizens to register and vote.
North Carolina, reversing its leadership on voting access, this year passed one of the most restrictive voting laws in the United States. One major change was reducing the early voting period from 17 days to 10 starting in 2014. Last week a new Brennan Center report said this is exactly the opposite of what states should be doing. The center recommends early voting periods of at least two weeks. It said early voting reduces lines on Election Day, allows more time to correct problems with registration and voting systems and increases access to voting and voter satisfaction.
Those benefits have not gone unnoticed. The center said at least 20 states considered proposals to start or expand early voting this year. In its next session, the General Assembly ought to join that group by undoing the reduction in early voting. Its not too late to do the right thing.