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The Daily Tar Heel

N.C. May Revise Election Laws

The bills also include a measure that would restrict the use of "soft money" -- contributions given to political parties rather than candidates -- in the state.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the N.C. Senate approved the Electoral College reform bill in a 35-15 vote divided along party lines.

Sen. Howard Lee, D-Orange, proposed the bill to change the state's present winner-take-all system of awarding presidential electoral votes to a method based on congressional districts.

A candidate would receive one elector for each district he or she won. The candidate winning the most votes statewide would be granted two at-large electors.

Lee said the bill would allow the system to better manifest the people's will. "I think it's an issue of fairness and ensuring that the wishes of the voters in various districts are recorded through the electoral votes," he said.

Lee said another benefit of the proposed change is that it would increase the likelihood of garnering visits from candidates. "I think it becomes more attractive to candidates to visit a state if they have a chance to win some electoral votes," Lee said.

Sen. Robert Carpenter, R-Henderson, said the bill received favorable reviews from legislators. "I haven't heard any opposition," he said.

But Lee said the bill was hardly bipartisan. "Unfortunately, it has become a partisan issue," he said. "All the Republicans voted against it in the Senate."

In the face of Republican opposition, Lee says the key to passing the bill is getting support from House Democrats.

A Senate committee also approved a bill, proposed by Sen. Wib Gulley, D-Durham, aimed at eliminating a loophole in state campaign finance laws that allows the transfer of soft money donations from national parties to state candidates' campaigns. "We've had a problem with national soft money in the last couple of years," Gulley said. "(The bill) wouldn't end the role of soft money in North Carolina, but it would lessen it."

Gulley's proposal would limit the use of national parties' soft money to activities such as voter participation drives. But he said the bill is just a start.

"If it was up to me I would end all soft money," Gulley said. "It really degrades the whole process."

But Carpenter said he is suspicious of any reform on soft money, because he said such bills usually are slanted to favor the proposing party. "We Republicans usually end up on the short end," he said.

Gulley said opposition to finance reform is characteristic of the Republican camp. "The opposition to campaign finance reform has come disproportionately from the Republican party in North Carolina," he said.

Despite opposition and pressing deadlines, Gulley said the bill has a decent chance of passing this session.

But Carpenter warned that any such legislation would likely have ill effects on state politics. "I think the more we tamper with soft money, the more it will be available."

The State & National Editor can be reached at

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