In many ways, the election laws the General Assembly passed in 2013 put North Carolina on par with other states across the country.
Until then, the Tar Heel State had some of the least restrictive election laws. Now, it likely falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. Here’s how our state compares today, according to information from the National Conference of State Legislatures:
Voter ID: North Carolina is among 34 states that have passed voter-identification requirements, and such requirements are in force in 32 states. The courts struck down Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law, and the state won’t appeal. North Carolina’s law takes effect in 2016, barring action by the courts to the contrary. A trial in a lawsuit challenging aspects of the 2013 law, including the voter ID requirement, is expected this summer.
Early voting: Although processes differ from state to state, North Carolina is one of 33 states, plus the District of Columbia, with some type of in-person early voting. But the 2013 election law shortened North Carolina’s early voting period by a week. Now, early voting can begin no earlier than the second Thursday before an election, so the period is 10 days, down from 17. Across the country, early voting ranges from four days to 45 days, with the average being 19 days, so North Carolina’s period is on the shorter end.
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Same-day registration: Fourteen states and the District of Columbia either offer or will soon allow same-day registration, through which voters can register and cast ballots on election days. North Carolina eliminated that perk in 2013, joining the majority of states without it. Here, qualified residents who want to vote in an election must register no later than 25 days before that election.
Straight-ticket voting: Ten states allow straight-ticket voting, including Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. When North Carolina eliminated straight-ticket as part of the 2013 law, it joined the majority of states.
Preregistration for teenagers: North Carolina used to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote, so their registrations would automatically become active when they turned 18. But the General Assembly abolished that practice in the 2013 law. The goal of such laws is to encourage voting by young people, who consistently have the lowest turnout rates. Now in North Carolina, soon-to-be voters can’t register unless they will turn 18 before the next election.
Seven states allow 16-year-olds to preregister, and nine other states allow teenagers to register if they are either 17 or 17 and a half. Many states, like North Carolina, allow registration for anyone who will turn 18 by the time of the next election.
Online voter registration: About half of the states either already allow some form of online registration for voters or are implementing it soon. North Carolina has never had online registration but is exploring how it could work here.
As you can see, the recent election changes haven’t put North Carolina on an island of its own. The problem in the view of many critics is that North Carolina once had among the least restrictive sets of election laws.
That is no longer true.
Patrick Gannon is a syndicated columnist who writes about state government and politics.