With eloquent irony, the Voter Information Verification Act of the N.C. House (H.B. 589) notes in its preamble that it is an act to "restore confidence in government" and "promote the electoral process." It even goes so far as to proclaim the aim of protecting the right of each registered voter by confirming identity "as accurately as possible without restriction."
Oh, yes -- and "to further reform the election laws."
Further reform, indeed. By definition, reform refers to improvement. And it is difficult, if not impossible, to discern improvement in the overall tenor of this bill, but particularly in the N.C. Senate's grab box of restrictions on voter rights. These have just been inserted in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's regrettable 5-4 decision on the federal Voting Rights Act, which just freed this state from the onus of its previous discrimination and the resultant need in 40 of its 100 counties to prove fairness prior to making voting changes.
There is no longer any need for the state to look over its own shoulder to judge the shadow of voting rights changes that will follow such legislative decisions. The barn door is open. And these are some of the questionable-to-perverse provisions just inserted by the N.C. Senate into a bill that already carried its own forms of voter restrictions:
• Elimination of pre-registration
• Reduction of early voting
• Elimination of Sunday voting
• Elimination of "extraordinary circumstance" opening of polling place
• Elimination of flexible hours at early voting sites, thus eliminating local needs/control
In addition, the Senate's version of this bill incorporates the following provisions that roll back campaign finance reforms in this state through:
• Repeal of judicial elections fund
• Repeal of voter-owned elections fund
• Weakened disclosure requirements
• Increase in contribution limits
Yet again, this Legislature is jamming major policy changes into the waning hours of its session without adequate time for public study and reaction. This bill is slated to be heard at 2 p.m. today (July 23) in the Senate Rules Committee, Room 544, Legislative Office building.
by Nelda Holder