Proposed NC voting laws could increase wait times

A flurry of voting law proposals bundled into one large bill at the N.C. General Assembly could cost the state extra money and increase wait times for voters, according to election officials.

House Bill 451, filed last week, would reduce the early voting period by one week and eliminate same-day registration, among other proposals.

Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress N.C., a think tank which advocates for fair and equitable policies, said the bill could reduce voter turnout.

Infobox
HOUSE BILL 451
  • The early voting period would be shortened to one week before Election Day, instead of the original two weeks.
  • Same-day registration at polling places would also be eliminated.
  • In 2012, about 2.5 million N.C. residents voted early, and about 97,000 voters registered on Election Day.

Now, the early voting period begins 19 days before Election Day and ends three days before.
In the 2012 general election, about 2.5 million people in North Carolina voted early.

Greg Steele, chairman of the N.C. Federation of College Republicans, said fewer voting days would cut operating costs.

But Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said reducing the early voting period would require more staff training and recruitment for polling stations.

“There is not going to be any savings at all by reducing the early voting period,” he said.

The Orange County Board of Elections spent $47,500 on staff during the November 2012 election period, said Director of Elections Tracy Reams.

The bill would also prevent people from registering and voting on the same day.

Steele said this would encourage people to research candidates before they vote.

“It would energize people into taking more time to be invested into what they’re voting for,” he said.

But Brenner said the bill would make voting less convenient and accessible.

“Why should we expect longer lines to vote than longer lines to do grocery shopping or buy a coffee?” he said.

A recent poll from Progress N.C. found that 78 percent of participants believed voting should be made more convenient by shortening lines, not lengthening them.

Brenner said the bill was not compatible with Gov. Pat McCroy’s ideas about a culture of customer service in state government.

“Voters who hire and fire our politicians should be treated as customer number one,” he said.

Other states have also reduced early voting periods. In 2008, Florida cut the early voting period from 14 to eight days.

The change proved controversial — in November 2012, the Democratic party filed a lawsuit to extend voting days.

The GOP introduced another bill Thursday requiring photo identification at the polls, a measure Republicans previously failed to enact.

The bill includes university IDs as a form of identification, along with driver’s licenses. Residents would be able to obtain a free ID by demonstrating financial hardship.

Contact the desk editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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