They say “timing is everything”, but it’s hard to understand the timing behind this week’s “Bad Bill of the Week”; House Bill 239, Restore Early Voting Days. HB 239’s primary sponsors Larry Hall (D-Durham), Marvin Lucas (D-Cumberland), Garland Pierce (D-Hoke) and Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) are joined by 32 other sponsors – all Democrats in proposing that seven days be added to an already generous (10 day) in-person early voting period.
The timing is interesting because not only is there a July 2015 court case looming over the entire piece of legislation that contained the provision that shortened the early voting window, but the provision was tested in the 2014 primary and general elections and came out smelling like roses.
VIVA was the legislation that sought to unravel the confusion in North Carolina’s voting system. It updated outdated campaign finance law, restored order to polling places, and attempted to establish fair and impartial solutions to voting problems that had gone ignored for years. One of VIVA’s most important changes was the reduction of days for in-person early voting. All of VIVA’s provisions were in place by the 2014 election cycle except for the voter photo ID provision which will be implemented in 2016.
North Carolina is one of 28 states where any qualified voter may cast a ballot in person during early voting and no excuse is required. VIVA lessened the number of days while mandating that the number of total voting hours remains the same as in comparable previous elections. Beginning in 2014, the number of days to vote at an early voting one-stop site were shortened to 10 from 17. But the total hours of voting in the 10-day period was equal to the total hours each county provided in the previous general election. Moreover, all additional one-stop, early voting sites were to be open on the same days at the same times.
So how did North Carolina voter turnout compare to other elections with the new laws in place? In both the 2014 primary and General Elections, turnout was substantially up from the last comparable election of 2010, especially among the African-American demographic. Even the mainstream media had to admit this fact. The Asheville Citizen Times published turnout number comparisons after the November election (2014 to 2010) that showed that every demographic (party, race and age) increased in turnout except for one – voters over 66 years of age and Libertarians. The largest turnout increases went to Black voters and Democrats in general.
With these examples of increased turnout, why would the liberal/progressives in the legislature want to turn back time and revert to a less effective, more expensive voting paradigm? Poor timing and blatant politics makes HB 239 this week’s Bad Bill of the Week.