Under the Dome

Proposed new GOP voters laws denounced

A coalition of groups, led by the NAACP, Friday denounced legislation that would make it harder to vote in North Carolina, promising to wage a vigorous campaign against the proposed new restrictions.

The group criticized GOP bills that would cut early voting by one week, would end Sunday voting, and would end same day registration at early voting sites and end straight-party voting.

“These bills are about politicians manipulating elections for their own partisan gains,” said the Rev. William Barber, the state NAACP president. “These bills will block hundreds of North Carolinians from voting.''

He said a similar law in Florida last year, lead to eight-hour lines for voters and according to one study 200,000 people giving up and not voting.

Allison Riggs, an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice said a similar law was struck down in Ohio.

Barber said a coalition groups would consider a range of activities to oppose the bills including legal challenges, lobbying efforts, and if necessary even civil disobedience, just as the civil rights movement used in the 1960s.

“The citizens that will be hit hardest by these changes are people of color, veterans, young people and the poor,” Barber said.

The backdrop for the legislation, Barber said, is that North Carolina had the largest increase in voter participation between 2004 and 2008 of any state in the country.

Riggs said the end of Sunday voting seemed directed as “Souls to the Polls” efforts in which efforts are made to encourage those attending black churches to vote after the service.

North Carolinians can now vote 2 and half weeks before the election. But a bill offered by House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes would cut it to one and half weeks. Although anybody can engage in early vote, Democrats have used it more extensively as a political tool than Republicans.

In 2012 general elections, 1.2 million Democrats early voted in North Carolina, while 765,683 Republicans early voted, according to figures compiled by Democracy North Carolina.

Democrats also had the advantage of in same day registration, with 46,691 Democrats registering on the same day they voting, while 25,868 Republicans registered on the same day they voted.

The GOP legislation would make one aspect of voting easier however – mail-in absentee voting by allowing a person to pick up multiple absentee applications. During the November election, Republicans mailed in 108,522 absentee ballots, while Democrats mailed in 62,210 absentee ballot.

Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina said the fact that the GOP lawmakers are trying to restrict voting tools that have favored Democrats, while expanding voting tools that favor Republicans shows the partisan nature of the bill.

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