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VoteHere’s something North Carolina voters can put on their wish lists for 2015:  voting reforms like those enacted by the Illinois legislature earlier this week that make registration simpler and more reliable, cut election costs in the long run, reduce voter fraud and, most importantly, expand the right and ability to vote.

In just about every way, the Illinois bill is the polar opposite of North Carolina’s House Bill 589, enacted in August 2013 and widely criticized as one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country.

Here are the highlights, as summarized by the Brennan Center’s DeNora Getachew:

The Illinois bill has three major pieces:

  1. It will implement electronic registration, which means more voters will have the opportunity to sign up when they interact with a government agency.
  2. It will create a permanent same-day registration (SDR) system. SDR will increase convenience by allowing citizens to register and vote on the same day, either before or on Election Day.
  3. It will increase early voting options by extending them to include the three days — most notably, the Saturday and Sunday — before Election Day.

Illinois had already adopted online voter registration in 2013, joining 17 other states doing the same — recognizing that it would increase voter participation, particularly among young people, and would reduce registration costs.

“This law will increase participation in our democracy,” State Senator Don Harmon said at the time. “But it will do more than that. It will also save the state money. Processing a paper registration costs 83 cents. Processing an online application costs 3 cents.”

With the new law, Illinois also joins “ERIC” — the Electronic Registration Information Center — which helps states share voter information, making voting rolls more accurate and adapting to the mobility of voters.  Eleven other states and Washington, D.C., had already joined the center.

To see more about how ERIC works, watch below.

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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.

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News

Michele Jawando, Vice President of the Legal Progress project at the D.C.-based Center for American Progress, faxed a letter to the North Carolina State Board of Elections this afternoon voicing concern over “barriers to voting that need to be immediately addressed.” This is from the letter:

Today, however, there is evidence of barriers to voting in North Carolina that need to be immediately addressed. For example, there are reports that voting machines in Guilford County have registered incorrect votes; polling places in predominantly African American neighborhoods have been down; a polling place near Bennett College, a historically black college, having incorrect voter rolls; and another polling place missing essential thumb drives. Finally, around the Charlotte metropolitan area, voters have been confused about their precinct location. This is particularly troubling, as this is the first election that voters will not be permitted to cast provisional ballots in an incorrect precinct.

These examples of failed vote tabulation, incorrect voter rolls, and precinct confusion make it clear that voters in North Carolina are not freely able to exercise this most cherished right. We call upon the state board of elections to investigate and address these issues immediately to ensure that North Carolinians can exercise their legal right to vote.

Read the entire letter by clicking here.

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

Caring and thinking North Carolinians should utter a word of thanks today to some dedicated advocates and activists working to make sure that all who wish to vote can do so. Of particular note are:

1) The legal experts at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, which is hosting a national voter protection hotline today. As the group noted in a news release yesterday:

UNC School of Law students, with other community volunteers, are staffing a toll-free, non-partisan hotline to answer voter questions on Election Day, Tuesday November 4th, as part of Election Protection, a national voter advocacy effort. Voters can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) or 1-888-VE-Y VOTA (888-839-8682) with questions about their rights and the voting process….This November is the first major election after the passage of North Carolina House Bill 589, which significantly changed the voting laws in North Carolina. The Election Protection Hotline will provide resources to support voters at the polling place. Voters can call the Hotline to report any problems they encounter or witness at the polls, verify their registration status, or find their polling location.

and, 2) the student activists at Ignite NC. This is from a release that group distributed this morning: Read More