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voteNew data put out today by Democracy NC found that voter participation was higher in the state for the 2014 midterm election than it was in 2010. In general, voter turnout increased across the board for most subgroups but the most significant increase came from the group of unaffiliated voters. Of the 250,600 more people who voted in the 2014 election, almost two-thirds were Independents. Among Democrats and Republicans, the changes were slight. Even though more Democratic women came out to vote in 2014, Republican men continued to turnout in higher numbers. Since the percentage of party-affiliated voters didn’t change drastically, it certainly seems that Independent vote had a serious impact on the outcome of the election.

According to Bob Hall, director of Democracy NC, “Thom Tillis gained the edge from independent voters, conservative Democrats and the higher turnout of Republican voters,” while “Senator Kay Hagan benefited from the increased turnout of Democratic women and African Americans.”

The African American vote increased by 1.9 percentage points in the midterm election, which Hall credits to the efforts of groups including, Democracy North Carolina, the NC NAACP, Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters, who mounted yearlong campaigns to educate voters about the new voting rules.

However, Hall notes that, the increases in voter participation, both within subgroups and overall, aren’t necessarily a cause for joy. He explained that no party or group can be proud of an election where more than half the registered voters did not participate. “The loss of same-day registration cut out at least 20,000 voters,” he said, “and the end of straight-party voting and out-of-precinct voting created long lines and enormous problems that pushed away thousands of more people.”

Democracy NC’s full press release can be read here and voter turnout data can be found here.

News

Voting rightsThere was a good deal of anecdotal evidence during the November election indicating that something was amiss in a lot voting places around the state. Now, sadly, there is damning confirmation in a new report from the watchdogs at Democracy North Carolina. This is from the report summary:

“New voting restrictions and unprepared poll workers kept as many as 50,000 North Carolinians from voting in this fall’s general election, according to an analysis by the elections watchdog group Democracy North Carolina.

Although most voters reported that casting a ballot was easy and election officials generally responded quickly to fix a broken machine, there is mounting evidence that a shorter early voting period, confusion caused by new election rules, and strong turnout pushed many Election Day polling sites to the breaking point.

Read More

Commentary

This morning’s top “you can’t make this stuff up” entry from the folks on Right Wing Avenue has to be this post from “The Locker Room” blog. In it, the author slams mail-in voting as part of a nefarious liberal plot to promote fraud and end the secret ballot.

Mind you, these claims come from one of the very groups that championed North Carolina’s “Monster” voter suppression law even as progressive critics were repeatedly blasting that law’s one-sided and blatantly partisan provisions to make voting more complicated and difficult for everyone except absentee, mail-in voters.

In other words: The Pope people would do well to get their stories straight. If they are really worried about fraud in mail-in voting, they might want to think about taking a look at the laws in their home state. Of course, to do that might actually lead to a lower turnout amongst the people that the Pope people want to vote — i.e. older, wealthy and white voters.

Hmmm — wonder how this will turn out?

Commentary

Voting rightsIf you encountered a frustratingly long line at your polling place this morning (or do so later today), you can thank the current General Assembly and governor for the frustration.  There are lots of reasons that North Carolina’s new “Monster Voting Law” is making voting more difficult in our state and thereby discouraging participation, but here is an especially pernicious one that’s been under-reported and that’s contributing mightily to the long lines like the one I encountered this morning: the end of “straight ticket” voting.

In 2012, 2.5 million North Carolinians cast a straight ticket ballot. Think about that. On a ballot like the one I wrestled with for several minutes this morning, painstakingly filling in the bubbles with a silly ballpoint pen (as an aside, can’t we figure out something better and easier than a bunch of worn-out Bic pens?), the  time loss was probably at least five to seven minutes for anyone who voted in every partisan race. Now multiply 2.5 million times and you get hundreds of thousands of hours added to waiting times across the state. Add to this, the thousands of people who just give up and, well, you get the idea.

The bottom line: Longer, unnecessary waits and, you can be sure, great satisfaction amongst those who would cynically depress the vote in order to manipulate the results. As election watchdog Bob Hall noted  in an op-ed several weeks back:

The tip-off of this exclusionary strategy, and indeed the whole rationale behind the sweeping changes to state election law, comes from statements by Jack Hawke, a former NC GOP chair, former president of the Civitas Institute, and former campaign manager for Pat McCrory. After the Democrats’ 2008 victory, Hawke wrote a column for the Carolina Journal explaining why the McCrory campaign fell short that year. Blame the straight ticket and early voting, he said. Read More

Commentary
[This post has been updated.] At least nine of North Carolina’s leading newspapers have now published editorials in support of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent ruling that the November election should go ahead without the voter suppression bans on same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting.

The Asheville Citizen-Times, the Burlington Times-News, the Charlotte Observer, the Greensboro News & Record, the New Bern Sun-Journal, Raleigh’s News & Observer. the Southern Pines Pilot, the Tideland News and the Wilmington Star News have all explained why it makes no sense to end these common sense practices to expand access to the franchise while the trial over North Carolina’s monster voting law proceeds.

Let’s hope U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and his colleagues — to whom the defenders of the suppression laws have appealed to stay the Fourth Circuit ruling and keep the limits on voting in place — employ similar logic.