NC GOP lawmakers seek to scale back early voting


GOP House and Senate members filed legislation this week to scale back the current 2½- week early voting period before primary and general elections by one week. They also want to halt same-day voter registration during those periods.

The House bill also would eliminate Sunday voting during early voting, end straight-party balloting and make all judicial races partisan.

The House agreed in 2011 to reduce the early voting period but the bill didn't pass the Senate. Early voting is popular - 56 percent of the votes cast in November's election occurred at one-stop early voting sites.

The state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says it opposes the legislation.

At a news conference Friday it called it an attempt to make it harder for traditionally liberal-leaning groups to vote.

"The citizens hit hardest by these changes will be voters of color, veterans, the elderly, young people and people with disability and the poor," offered NC NAACP President William Barber.

The bills were filed by Senator Jerry Tillman, a Republican from Randolph County, and Representative Edgar Starnes, a Republican from Caldwell County.

NC House Majority Leader Skip Stam is in favor of the legislation.

"It's a matter of prudence, what is really the longest time we should have an election, should it be just one day on election day or for six months?" Stam said.

Stam denies that the GOP is trying to target specific groups and keep them from voting. Instead, he said this legislation is trying to level the playing field for candidates.

"It's a great benefit for the wealthier candidates who can afford to get all their message to the voters who vote three weeks early and then give the same message to others. It's a real disincentive to grass roots candidates," Stam said. "Some people don't think government employees need a day of rest, but we think they do. "

Barber and his supporters believe the move directly targets Souls to the Polls, a program that has been popular in the African American community.

The NAACP says it will fight back against the legislation, and is already consulting with top legal aids.

"Though they may have a temporary majority in the legislature we believe they have overreached constitutionally, and we will test in the courts everything they do," Barber said.

The NAACP will be holding an open strategy session at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church Tuesday at 6 p.m. to discuss ways to defeat the legislation.

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