It was no surprise that North Carolina Republican state lawmakers would be introducing voter ID legislation this year, after a Republican governor was elected in November. But they attempted a head fake last month by suggesting they would take a tempered, “slow-walk“-ed approach to fashioning voter ID legislation. Instead, state Republicans in the House and Senate unleashed one of the most extreme voter restriction packages in the nation.
Despite no inkling of voter fraud in the state, Republicans introduced the following bills this week:
- HB 451 and SB 428: Cut a full week from the early voting period.
- HB 451 and SB 428: Repeal same-day voter registration during the early voting period.
- HB 451: Bans all early voting on Sundays.
- SB 666: Prohibits the child dependency tax deduction ($2,500) for parents if their child registers to vote at a different address, such as the town or city where they attend school.
- SB 666: Allows poll observers to move about more freely in the polling place, which creates more opportunities to intimidate poll workers and voters.
- SB 721: Requires strict government-issued photo ID to vote.
- SB 721: Enforces a 5-year waiting period, after a person convicted of a felony has served their time, before they can get their voting rights back (having their rights restored must also be approved unanimously by their county board of elections).
- SB 668: Amends the state constitution to disqualify voters deemed “mentally incompetent.”
The call for erasing Sunday early voting—a direct attack on African-American led “Souls to the Polls” get-out-the-vote campaigns—comes despite the fact that courts invalidated similar laws in Ohio and Florida last year. If the SB 721 felony disenfranchisement bill passes, it would make it harder for the formerly incarcerated to vote at a time when other conservative governors, like Virginia, are advocating to restore voting rights for those with felonies.
According to The Advancement Project, the proposed laws are most shocking given North Carolina’s voting record. Between 2004 and 2008, the state had the largest increase in voting in the nation. In 2012, North Carolina ranked 11th among all states in voter turnout. More than half of North Carolinians who voted in 2012 used early voting—including 70 percent of the state’s African-American voters. African Americans in North Carolina also used Sunday voting twice as much as white voters.
Over at Facing South, Chris Komm reports that these bills all come courtesy of Republican state law-makers financed by conservative mega-donor Art Pope, who is to North Carolina’s GOP team what Mark Cuban is to the Dallas Mavericks. Writes Kromm:
Pope has also played a central role in North Carolina’s voting wars as the chief benefactor behind an array of policy groups that have been the leading advocates for sweeping changes to state election laws.
The John W. Pope Civitas Institute, which receives more than 90 percent of its funding from Pope’s family foundation, has been the state’s leading policy advocate for voter ID restrictions and dismantling the state’s clean elections programs.
Americans for Prosperity and the John Locke Foundation have also targeted the judicial and Council of State public financing programs, castigating them as “welfare for politicians.”
From his perch as Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget director, Pope himself unveiled a budget last month that specifically targeted the judicial public financing program, as well as the tax check-off for political parties, for elimination.
This comes the same week that Arkansas passed a strict voter ID bill.