Friday, July 26, 2013

New voting laws discourage turnout

The North Carolina General Assembly has passed a new set of voting laws that will require a photo ID and will eliminate a number of "convenience" opportunities to vote. As I have stated before, I don't have a big problem with voter ID as long as the law is applied fairly and those voters without a driver's license have ample and cost-free opportunity to get an ID. I'll give the Republican legislators who are pushing the voter ID bill a free ride on this one, despite critics' claims that the bill amounts to voter suppression and is racist. The law applies equally to white, black, male, female, Democrat and Republican.

But the curtailing of early voting and the elimination of same-day registration, straight-ticket voting and other conveniences for voters is clearly intended to shrink the electorate and shrink it in a way that will benefit Republicans and reduce Democratic turnout. As the Obama organization has proven twice, turnout is everything.

Early voting applies equally to voters of both parties, but it seems clear that Democrats have taken advantage of the reduced barriers to voting. Democrats have done a better job of getting voters to the polls early and boosting their turnout. Rather than work harder to match their opponents' early turnout, the GOP legislators will simply make it harder to vote early. As for straight-ticket voting, this convenience for voters has been a thorn in the side of both parties. When they ruled the legislature, Democrats separated presidential voting from the straight ticket in an effort to blunt the popularity of Republican presidential candidates, who had won North Carolina for the previous 32 years until 2008. The separation required an extra click for voters, but it was seen as worth it to state Democrats who didn't want to be lumped with unpopular Democratic presidential candidates (Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, etc.).

I have no personal interest in this matter. I have never voted early, and I have never voted a straight ticket. I've always enjoyed going to the polls on Election Day, and I never wanted to give one party absolute control, nor did I think one party had a monopoly on talent and integrity.

The new voting laws will be challenged, but it may be hard to prove that making it less convenient to vote is an infringement on the right to vote. (Who said voting had to be convenient?) It is, nevertheless, a blatant attempt by Republicans to eliminate the votes of many citizens who lean toward the Democratic Party. If this suppression of voting prevails, Republicans could enjoy an advantage for decades. Or they could so anger Democratic voters that their turnout actually rises.

No comments: