Voting rights watch: NC Repubs push harsh new voting restrictions

North Carolina Republicans are not hiding the fact that newly proposed [2013] voting restrictions are aimed at making it harder for Democrats to vote. As North Carolina’s House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes put it, “The Republicans won the election. We are in control. We intend to elect Republicans and appoint Republicans, and we make no apology for it.” [North Carolina elected a Republican-dominated state legislature in 2010—the first time that has happened since McKinley was president—and a Republican governor in 2012. Clearly, they are savoring the victory, with a vengeance—literally.]

OK, that’s about as blatant as it gets. So, exactly how do they intend to accomplish their goal? Here’s the plan—a seven-point program, proposed earlier this year, and scheduled for further pursuit following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling gutting the Voting Rights Act, under which many of these restrictions would most likely have been struck down.

Here’s a pared-down version of North Carolina’s 7-step solutions, as published in The Nation. We should be looking at each of these proposals as “models” for the tidal wave of voting rights wrongs that is about to hit all over the country:

Requiring state-issued photo ID to cast ballot

A government-issued photo ID, a state employee photo ID or a student ID from a public university would be required to vote. Other states with strict voter ID laws provide a free state ID (even though the underlying documents needed to obtain the ID, like a birth certificate, cost money), but in North Carolina the voter ID would cost $10, which is eerily reminiscent of a poll tax. A free ID can only be obtained by signing an affidavit, under the penalty of perjury, citing financial hardship.

Over 7 percent of registered voters in North Carolina, 481,109 to be exact, don’t have a driver’s license or a state-issued photo ID, according to the state’s own data. Fifty-five percent of registered voters without photo ID are Democrats. African-Americans make up 22 percent of registered voters in the state, but a third of all registered voters without ID.

Cutting early voting

New legislation would reduce the early voting period in North Carolina from two-and-a-half weeks to just one week and would eliminate voting on the last Sunday of early voting, when African-American churches hold “Souls to the Polls” get-out-the-vote drives. The legislation would also limit early voting locations to one site per county, which is a recipe for much longer line.

Ending same day registration during early voting

Over 155,000 voters registered to vote and voted on the same day during the early voting period in 2012. Ending same-day registration will almost certainly decrease voter turnout in North Carolina and make voting more inconvenient.

Penalizing parents of students who register to vote where they go to college

The most extreme proposal of all the new voting restrictions would eliminate the $2,500 child dependency tax deduction for parents of college students who vote where they attend school.

Disenfranchising ex-felons

New legislation would prevent ex-felons from receiving their voting rights after serving their time and would instead force them to wait five years, apply to the board of elections and receive unanimous approval in order to re-enter the political process. Five times as many blacks as whites have a criminal record in North Carolina and could be disenfranchised for years under this new proposal.

Banning “incompetent” voters from the polls

Anyone given such a designation from the state will be unable to cast a ballot, “even if the person’s mental health issues have nothing to do with their abilities to understand voting.”

Ending straight-ticket voting

In 2012, 1.4 million Democrats and 1.1 million Republicans in North Carolina voted a straight-party ticket. Eliminating this convenient form of voting will likely hurt Democrats in down-ballot races.