The agenda of disenfranchisement

The agenda of disenfranchisement

- in Fitzsimon File

In late July, when the House failed to override Governor Beverly Perdue’s veto of the Republicans voter ID law, it looked for a moment like the issue was dead until the 2013 session.

But then House Majority Leader Paul Stam immediately invoked a parliamentary procedure to keep the bill alive for another veto override vote that could happen any time before the General Assembly adjourns its short session next summer.

House Minority Leader Joe Hackney told the House not to allow Stam to keep the veto override alive forever, saying that the voter ID issue had been decided.

Stam responded that “it’s not settled until it’s settled right.” It was a telling moment and not just because of the arrogance of the statement.

Republicans came to Raleigh with a long agenda this year, but making it more difficult for people to vote was near the top. That was not clear not only from the passage of one of the most restrictive voter ID bills in the country and Stam’s troubling maneuver to keep it alive, but also from other proposals that surfaced, all of which remain alive for consideration in next summer’s short session.

They include limiting the length of the early voting period, prohibiting voting on Sundays, and even regulating efforts to drive people to the polls.

Republicans in North Carolina don’t seem to want a large voter turnout, especially from people more likely to vote for Democrats, so they are intent on putting up barriers to make it harder for seniors, people with a disability and low-income citizens to make to the polls and cast a ballot.

It turns out that Republicans in North Carolina did not come up with the idea. Instead they seem to be following a script provided by national Republican leaders.

A study released this week by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School found that new laws and executive orders in 14 states will make it significantly harder for more than five million people to vote in 2012, most of them young, minority and low-income voters.

All three of those groups generally vote Democratic. Virtually all the states that passed legislation to restrict voting rights are controlled politically by Republicans.

The study also finds that the states that have made it more difficult to vote will account for 171 electoral votes in the 2012 election, almost two-thirds of the 270 a candidate need to be elected president.

And those are just the numbers where the legislation has passed. They do not include North Carolina and more than 20 other states where voter ID legislation or other voting restrictions were introduced.

Twelve states considered bills to require a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship to vote and 13 considered proposals to abolish or shorten early voting, limit voter registration drives, end Sunday voting, all ideas that that Republicans brought up in North Carolina this session.

It is hardly a coincidence that the explosion of voting restrictions happened this year. Republicans took control of 19 more state legislatures in the 2010 election and how hold a majority in 26 states.

The study finds that before 2011 legislative sessions, only two states had imposed strict voter ID requirements for voting.

Four times that many states impose them now and legislation is pending in many more. The study points out that more 21 million citizens do not have a government-issued photo ID.

There’s a reason Rep. Stam jumped up on the House floor in late July to keep the disenfranchising voter ID law alive.

He and his fellow Republicans across the country know that if they want to stay in power, they need to make it as tough as possible for people to vote against them—even though it’s their constitutional right.

About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.
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