Archives

Commentary

Phil Berger[This story has been updated -- see below] There’s been a lot of confusion about North Carolina’s confusing and complicated “Monster Voting Law” — much of it resulting from the fact many of the law’s numerous changes designed to make voting more difficult go into effect at different times. Of course, when your overall objective is to suppress voter turnout — especially amongst already marginalized groups and individuals — confusion can be a useful tool.

Just ask state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. who’s running TV ads touting his role in passing the voter ID provision that was included in the monster law. As WUNC radio’s Jorge Valencia reports, voting rights advocates at the state NAACP are rightfully steamed over the fact that Berger’s ad implies that the voter ID requirement is already in effect for the November election, even though it actually doesn’t take effect until 2016.

The North Carolina NAACP is calling on state Senate Leader Phil Berger to stop broadcasting an ad about a new voting law. The civil rights organization says the ad is misleading and could keep some from voting.

It’s a political campaign spot airing on TV stations in the Triad. And it gives Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) credit for a 2013 law that changed many rules about voting in North Carolina.

“Now,” the narrator says, “thanks to Phil Berger, voters must show a valid ID to vote.”

Berger himself continues: “Voter ID prevents fraud and protects the integrity of our elections. It’s common sense.”

The NAACP says that is a misleading statement. Portions of this new law are in place — such as there no longer being a possibility to register on the same day as the election and the elimination of the option to vote for one party by checking one box. But the ID portion of the bill, which will compel voters to show identification at polling stations, will not be in effect until 2016. Attorney Al McSurely said at a press conference Tuesday that Berger’s ad is confusing.

A “misleading statement” to say the least. How about “an obvious untruth that’s just the latest wrinkle in the ongoing effort to suppress voter turnout amongst voters worried about long lines and getting hassled at the polls”?

Click here to read the WUNC story and listen to the ad.

UPDATE: Though apparently denying it was in response to the NAACP complaint, Senator Berger has now amended the ad in question to make clear that the voter ID requirement does not go into effect until 2016. Raleigh’s News & Observer has the story here.

Commentary

Voting rightsThe good people at Democracy North Carolina released a new and detailed report today that documents the negative impact that North Carolina’s new “monster voting law” has already had on voter participation. The report actually provides the names, hometowns and zip codes of 454 voters who were denied the right to vote in the May primary, but who would have been allowed to vote under the rules governing the 2012 election. This is from the report, which is entitled “Be Prepared: Hundreds of Voters Lost Their Votes in 2014 Primary Due to New Election Rules”:

We analyzed the provisional ballots cast in the 2014 primary by more than 400 voters whose votes would have counted in 2012, but who were rejected this year because of two changes in the rules: (1) these voters were unable to register during the Early Voting period because they couldn’t use the old “same-day registration” law; or (2) they were unable to cast a ballot on Election Day outside of their own polling place because they couldn’t use the old “out-of-precinct voting” law.

Voters denied a chance to have their voices heard include a veteran returning from Afghanistan whose registration was incorrectly terminated while he was away; a first-time voter who registered at the DMV, but that registration didn’t reach the local board of elections; a precinct judge assigned to a precinct other than her own who couldn’t leave to vote in her home precinct; a disabled senior who was driven to a friend’s polling place on Election Day; a nurse who temporarily registered her car in a nearby county while working at its hospital for nine months; a college student who registered during a voter drive but her application was not recorded; and a new couple in town who mailed in their registration but it did not reach the county board of elections before the registration deadline…. Read More

Commentary
Bob Hall

Democracy NC Executive Director Bob Hall

Be sure to check out the op-ed authored by Democracy North Carolina’s Bob Hall in the Winston-Salem Journal this morning about one of the less-well-publicized (but most cynical and manipulative) provisions buried in the state’s infamous “monster voting law.”

As Hall explains, the decision to do away with straight-ticket voting was clearly the result of one thing: the determination by Republican officials that it would reduce Democratic votes:

In 2012, a solid majority – 56 percent – of North Carolina voters marked one box on their ballots to indicate their choices in more than a dozen different races, from governor to county commissioner. It’s called straight-ticket voting and in 2012, it involved 1.4 million ballots for Democratic candidates and 1.1 million for Republicans. African Americans were about 60 percent more likely than whites to use this voting method.

In an ideal world, our schools, TV stations and other media would teach people about civics and citizenship, the importance of voting, the candidates and offices on the ballot, and how to determine who’s a goat, not just a donkey or elephant. Instead, voting is discounted and election contests are covered like a horse race – who’s ahead in the polls and who’s got the most money behind them.

Given that reality, the straight-ticket option gives voters a handy way to participate in many contests with a single mark for a party’s slate of candidates. That’s especially helpful with North Carolina’s notoriously long ballot, which extends to partisan races for clerk of court, even coroner. Straight-ticket voting allows voters to efficiently, effectively show support for candidates of the party that best shares their values. It makes the voting process less intimidating, more accessible and it reduces the waiting time for everybody.

Why get rid of it? Because Republican leaders decided it hurts their chances to win more elections. The change has nothing to do with preventing fraud or improving integrity; it’s all about analyzing the voting behavior of supporters and opponents for a party’s self-serving gain. Read More

Uncategorized

Voting rightsThanks to the opinion editors of the Greenville Daily Reflector this morning for republishing an excellent Charlotte Observer editorial that may have gotten lost in the shuffle for a lot of folks when it ran originally over the Fourth of July weekend. The essay deserves to be reprinted repeatedly and, as they say down on Jones Street, “spread upon the record.”

This is what happens when politics and ideology overrule common sense. In their zeal to “reform” the voting system in North Carolina, Republican lawmakers pushed through a change that has created confusion, more work and wasted money.

That change was to end preregistration of teens so once they reached voting age, they would automatically be registered to vote. And they could do so at state driver’s license offices which would make it a one-stop convenience for newly licensed young drivers.

Not surprisingly, it was an effective voter registration move. More than 150,000 young people preregistered from the time the program went into effect in 2010 to September 2013. By the way, the policy was adopted in 2009 with bipartisan legislative support.

Read More

Uncategorized

New findings today from the good government experts at Democracy North Carolina:

Black Turnout Up in May Primary, But Drops in 32 Counties
82% of State’s Increase Centers in 12 Counties with Hot Races

Republican attorneys and the State of North Carolina are telling a federal judge today that about 44,500 more blacks voted in North Carolina’s 2014 primary than in the previous midterm primary, and therefore all the claims about changes in the state’s election law causing voter suppression and discrimination should be dismissed as hogwash.

But an analysis of county-by-county voting patterns by the nonpartisan watchdog group Democracy North Carolina shows that focusing on the statewide total distorts large differences experienced by voters depending on where they live.

Here are some findings from that analysis, using a county-by-county Excel file created by Democracy NC from data on the State Board of Elections FTP site for voter history and registration:

  • Yes, more African Americans voted in the 2014 midterm primary than in the 2010 primary, but black turnout decreased in 8 of the 15 counties where African Americans are over 39% of the registered voters – that is, it decreased in the percent of registered black voters who voted and also decreased in the actual number of votes cast.

  • In fact, black turnout as a percent of registered voters who cast ballots declined in 32 of the 100 counties from the 2010 primary to 2014 primary, including 16 counties where African Americans are over 29% of the registered voters….”

Click here to read the rest of the findings.