Don’t Worry, North Carolina: Early Voting Wasn’t Shortened, Just “Compacted”
North Carolina’s legislative attack on voting rights this year was quickly recognized for what it was — the most restrictive set of laws since the Voting Rights Act of the sixties was put into effect. A myriad of new rules for voters were put into place with the bill, which was then signed into law by Republican Governor Pat McCrory. Now, the governor, facing an uphill battle for reelection, is trying to do a little history rewriting when it comes to limiting voter’s rights.
One key piece of North Carolina’s law would drastically cut back on early voting, which is seen by many to be a key factor in increasing voter turnout and ensuring democratic participation when it comes to electing candidates to office. The legislature voted to eliminate a full week off the early voting calendar, decreasing it from 17 to just 10 days.
Facing harsh criticism over that move, Governor McCrory is claiming that they actually didn’t shorten the early voting calendar at all. No, he says, they just “compacted” it.
“First of all, we didn’t shorten early voting, we compacted the calendar,” said McCrory in an interview with MSNBC, according to Huffington Post. “But we’re going to have the same hours in which polls are open in early voting, and we’re going to have more polls available. So it’s going to be almost identical. It’s just the schedule has changed. The critics are kind of using that line when in fact, the legislation does not shorten the hours for early voting.”
Of course, it’s semantic gymnastics to claim that by opening more polling places you can slash nearly half of the early voting period off and still somehow not be “shortening” early voting. For those who work inflexible jobs, an additional place to vote will not help when it comes to trying to arrange time off or a baby sitter or any of the other acts of juggling necessary to get to a voting place, and now there are even less days available to work with.
As Huffington Post reports, early voting has been wildly successful in North Carolina, and has been especially good for lowering the chaos and waits that can come with voting on Election Day. That in itself may be enough of a reason for the GOP, who have a stranglehold over the North Carolina legislature, to want to inhibit the process.
According to Mother Jones, it has become increasingly difficult to vote on Election Day for those who are of color or are younger voters, due to long wait times and increasing issues with voter restrictions. A study of Florida polls showed that those that catered to people of color or younger voters often closed anywhere from 90 minutes to five hours later than those in traditionally older or white neighborhoods. On average white voters waited in line 7 to 11 minutes less per voter than Latino or African American voters.
Even more disturbing? Many voters of color were being turned away from the polls because they didn’t have ID, even in states that didn’t require voter ID.
With a new voter ID law ready to go into effect in 2014, early voting periods “compacted” and new restrictions on new voters getting registered, it’s no wonder that the Justice Department has sued the state over its enactment. It is that fact that makes it even more disappointing that the Governor is pretending that the concern is overblown and that it is “much ado about nothing.”
Being able to vote isn’t “nothing,” and Governor McCrory and those who think like him need to treat it like the protected, constitutional right that it is.
Photo credit: Thinkstock