Restricting democracy

by | Mar 26, 2014 | Editor's Blog, NC Politics, Voting Rights | 11 comments

Throughout the year, Republicans have been arguing that their new voting laws aren’t meant to disenfranchise anybody. They are just trying to prevent fraud. Unfortunately, their actions tell another story and it’s not pretty in a state that used voter suppression as a tool throughout most of the 20th century.

The latest debacle is in Watauga County where well-organized Democrats have been able to beat back Republicans in a county surrounded by a sea of dark red. The GOP-controlled board of elections there eliminated the early voting site on Appalachian State University campus. Democrats have been fighting the move and since the lone Democrat on the three member board opposed it, early voting sites had to be approved by the State Board of Elections and, yesterday, the Board approved the move.

The Democrat on the Watauga board pointed out that more than 60% of voters live in Boone. In addition, students are less likely to have transportation, so making voting more accessible would increase participation. The Republicans on the board never came up with a good reason to move the site but it sure looks like they don’t want students to vote.

Republicans have done the same thing in Chapel Hill. They moved an early voting site off campus. Luckily, they reached a compromise and moved to a place still accessible to students. But the concept is the same. Don’t make voting easy for people who are likely to vote against the GOP majority.

It’s a sorry state of affairs when the Board responsible for overseeing voting has an agenda of making ballot access as difficult as possible for one segment of the population. Democrats would be wise to make sure young people know that the GOP would prefer they don’t vote.

Republicans can scream about voter fraud all they want but shortening the length of time for early voting and moving sites away from places that young people votes belies their true intentions. The GOP quite clearly wants to reduce the number of African-Americans and young people who go to the polls. It’s such a short-sighted strategy. Those young people will get older and African-American will continue to make up a substantial part of the electorate. And the GOP will only be able to hold power when they can restricted democracy. So much for the battle of ideas.


  1. Frank McGuirt

    Geek, I don’t know where you got your information on early voting but according to the National Conference of State Legislatures 33 states and the District of Columbia permit early voting. By my math that’s 66%. Yes, 100 years ago Democrats erected barriers to the ballot box, that wasn’t right then and it’s not right now. Remember that poem, “First they came…..” Well, soon they may come for me, Then they may come for you.

    We all have a duty to support and protect the Constitution and that includes ALL its amendments several of which guarantee the right of all citizens to vote. The intent of Republicans to limit some of our rights to vote is clear and it’s not right, it’s wrong.

    • geek49203

      You are correct on your stat — I found it after I hit the “submit” button. My bad.

      Now…. can you tell me how voting on only 1 day disenfranchises black people? Can you show me that? ‘Cause that is your argument, right?

      • Frank McGuirt

        No Geek, I was specifically responding to your comments about single day voting. The Republicans did much more damage with their whole package. Much more!
        Here are the details of everything bad about their disregard for ALL of OUR (yours & mine) voting rights via North Carolina Policy Watch. It’s a very long list:

         The end of pre-registration for 16 & 17 year olds

         A ban on paid voter registration drives

         Elimination of same day voter registration

         A provision allowing voters to be challenged by any registered voter of the county in which they vote rather than just their precinct

         A week sliced off Early Voting

         Elimination of straight party ticket voting

         A provision making the state’s presidential primary date a function of the primary date in South Carolina

         A provision calling for a study (rather than a mandate) of electronic candidate filing

         An increase in the maximum campaign contribution to $5,000 (the limit will continue to increase every two years with the Consumer Price Index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

         A provision weakening disclosure requirements for ”independent expenditure” committees

         Authorization of vigilante poll observers, lots of them, with expanded range of interference

         An expansion of the scope of who may examine registration records and challenge voters

         A repeal of out-of-precinct voting

         A repeal of the current mandate for high-school registration drives

         Elimination of flexibility in opening early voting sites at different hours within a county

         A provision making it more difficult to add satellite polling sites for the elderly or voters with disabilities

         New limits on who can assist a voter adjudicated to be incompetent by court

         The repeal of three public financing programs

         The repeal of disclosure requirements under “candidate specific communications.”

        • geek49203

          yessss…… and once you get north of the NC-VA border it’s all about “Voter ID”. And how those things are “racist” — which is the claim for most talking points — is still beyond me. Would a black person give me a “black studies” history on how this is racist?

          If we want to have a real discussion about this, let’s ask the following questions:

          1. So this is a list of ALL of the changes, right? ALL? They were ALL bad? If the Dems were still in charge of this state, and the Fed restrictions lifted, how many of these would they do too? (Gonna guess it’s a lot, and they’ve been discussed for some time). So let’s get out of the business of saying that “anything the other side wants is a horrible idea, and everything my side wants is a brilliant idea.”

          2. If this is about voter ID, then let’s talk about voter ID. Let’s not feign a straw man that it’s about the rest of the stuff. Makes the discussion a lot simpler that way, otherwise it’s akin to having a political discussion with a drunken pot head.

  2. geek49203

    I realize it’s bad form to compare NC to other states ’cause that would be just another Yankee (living close to Cary!) “telling you what to do”, but….

    1. Many, if not most, states limit voting to, GET THIS… ONE DAY. Seriously. And so far, no one is marching in the streets of those places claiming that this makes it impossible for them to vote, ‘specially if they are black. Seems to me that folks in those horrible 1-day states just figure it out, and yeah, probably vote in about the same percentages as in NC.

    2. Other states with a NASTY race history — and done at the hands of the Dems there too — have NOT seen black turnout decline when ID’s were required. Michigan and Georgia come to mind.

    So yeah, it’s the en vogue thing to say all of this stuff. But it’s akin to complaining about the Koch brothers, or yelling “Hailburton/Cheney/War Criminal” — it stirs the base, but it doesn’t win elections. ‘Cause most people, including a good number of Dem voters, want voter ID, and that’s what this is all about, NOT “the rest of the rules.”

  3. Paleo Tek

    I agree, this is political malpractice. Human psychology is such that we overvalue the things we have, and when someone is given a reasonable case that some entity is taking away a “something they have”, the reaction is overwhelmingly negative. If the Dems make the case to the students the Reps are trying to take away their right to vote, they’ve lost that cohort of voters for years if not decades. It’s an immoral abuse of power, and contrary to the principles of democracy. I remember when the Republican party had principles. They seem to have lost them somewhere in the Culture Wars.

    “NC GOP: Infuriating voters by the tens of thousands since 2012!”

    • geek49203

      Dems — Slave Holders, Confederacy, Red Shirts, KKK, military coups, Jim Crowe since 1792….

      • Paleotek

        Really? That’s what you’ve got? The feeble Rand-Paul-said, “Dems were big time racists” ploy?

        There’s a proverb in politics, “Don’t believe your own spin.” If you think your words above have relevance in the current political climate, you’re fooling yourself. From Nixon’s southern strategy, through Atwater and Rove’s dog whistle politics, the Republican party has consistently promoted racially divisive policies and often racist policies, most recently with the voter suppression laws in NC.

        Starting with Lyndon Johnson, the Democrats have paid heavy prices for doing the right thing on race.

        The “voting reform” act passed in NC addressed a non-problem. It’s real intent was to make it hard for Democrats to vote, I believe we can agree. However, this law disproportionately affect minorities, the poor, the aged, and students. Students can take their lumps, I suppose. But passing a law that disproportionately affects minorities without compelling reason is racist. Passing a law that disproportionately affects the poor without good reason is classist. And passing a law that disproportionately affects the elderly without good reason is just nasty and disrespectful.

        The minority community is certainly not buying your spin. They see the Republican party as their enemy. Because the Republican party has acted like their enemy.

        • geek49203

          Hey, your side is the one that has its politicians from black areas going to jail. Tell me — how was Detroit served? BTW, I can tell you, but I figure you know.

          That your side digs up some misconception of voting rights act votes and former segregationists to keep ’em down on the plantation makes my historically accurate observations all fair game. BTW, one of those that fought the voting rights stuff early in his career was LBJ. Just thought I’d point that out.

          Speaking of history — what about that lady who voted for Obama 6 times? Yeah, she got a bit of jail time… but the Feds refused to prosecute! So in her case, yes, it would be more difficult for her to vote.

          Can you please tell me how voting on only one day is harder on folks that you describe than it is for everyone else? Please? Cause coming from a string of 1-day voting states, and having voted here, I don’t see it. Certainly “convenience” won’t fly in court when you try to claim it to be a civil rights issue.

          • Paleo Tek

            Geek, you really are the master of the straw man and the red herring.

            > Hey your side…

            Neener neener?

            >That your side digs up some misconception of voting rights act votes
            >and former segregationists to keep ‘em down on the plantation makes
            >my historically accurate observations all fair game. BTW, one of those
            >that fought the voting rights stuff early in his career was LBJ. Just
            >thought I’d point that out.

            I’m not sure I can make sense out of your first sentence, but I guess you’re claiming progressives are keeping them down on the plantation. That would come as news to the progressives and the minority community, but, hey, don’t let facts get in the way of carrying the conservative banner.

            LBJ was no saint, but he did the right thing, and my country is a better place for it. Thank you, Mr. Johnson.

            Your question:

            >Can you please tell me how voting on only one day is harder on folks
            >that you describe than it is for everyone else? Please?

            is a straw man argument. Your are changing the context of the discussion to justify your position. I criticized the voting changes in moral terms. I stand by that. I’ve lived in one-day voting states, and that’s OK. But if you live in a state that encourages the franchise with lots of opportunity to vote, and you discourage the franchise by making it harder to vote for political reasons, you are acting contrary to the principles of democracy in a bid to maintain power.

            In person vote fraud is a rare thing in this country. It’s a crime, and is treated as such. There’s little or no evidence that it’s swung an election in recent memory. The John Birch Society, oh, I mean, ALEC (which is the ideological descendant of the Birchers, and is funded by the biological descendants of one of the founders), whipped up a frenzy about voter fraud, and used that to pass a bunch of laws that disproportionately impacted minorities, the poor, and the elderly.

            In moral terms, I suggest we analyze it in terms of the delta: there was a law. A change was made. Why was it changed? Who did it affect? Did it address a real problem? Was it done for sound public policy reasons? Is it a cost effective solution to the problem it purports to address? Could these objectives have ben achieved at lower cost or more equitable impact?These are the kinds of questions one should consider when looking at the impact of a new law. I maintain it was passed to punish Democratic constituencies, and make it harder for them to vote. I further maintain, that passing a law that disproportionately affects minorities WITHOUT COMPELLING REASON is racist. That means the NC GOP has been doing racist things. Here. Lately. If you think that’s a good thing, fine. If you want to carry water for the Birchers, fine. But it puts you on the wrong side of history, and the wrong side of morality.

            In mass culture and public policy we often have to think in terms of populations and aggregates. Statistically, the new law will prevent some legitimate voters from voting, disproportionately affecting the poor, minorities, and the elderly. For any given voter, yes, they can overcome the restrictions. But if you think in terms of populations, some won’t. Because they’re poor, lack transportation, lack information, whatever. I maintain that it’s contrary to the principles of democracy to proceed this way.

            Here’s a quick synopsis as to why I think it’s immoral. I didn’t pay much attention in philosophy, as well as economics, but a good simple heuristic for moral reasoning is Rawls Veil of Ignorance, which asks moral questions from the perspective of all members of society, including the worst-off and best-off members. Simply put, without knowing your place in society, would your rather live in a society with a fairly equal distribution of wealth or a society with very unequal distribution of wealth? Nearly everyone chooses a fairly equal distribution of wealth, because behind the Veil of Ignorance, you might be born to the poor parts of society.

            Would you rather live in a society that makes it hard for poor people to vote, or easy for poor people to vote?

            Would you rather live in a society that makes it hard for minorities to vote, or easy for minorities to vote?

            Would you rather live in a society that makes it hard for the elderly to vote, or easy for the elderly to vote?

            Because I answer “Easy” in all three cases, I find the changes to existing law that we’re discussing immoral. They’re political, too. But that does nothing to excuse the law’s basic immorality. I’m claiming it’s a moral issue. Your mileage may vary.

            I hope that answers your questions.

          • geek49203

            Pelo —

            Of course it doesn’t. The reason is that the Dems are arguing it both ways.

            They know that the voter ID law is popular with a huge number of voters, including a huge number of their own voters. So locally they say “No, it’s the other stuff, like limiting the number of early voting days.” Which we all know is BS, but we argue it, and some claim with a straight face that it’s a race issue.

            Then they get outside of NC, and Kay Hagan and the Justice Dept people get going, and it’s all about voter ID. Kay said so. Holder said so. But for an increasing number of people who have to show IDs to do things like cash a check, go to the doctor, buy pesticides and herbicides, get into government buildings (the list goes on), they don’t see the reason why people don’t have photo ID’s. Certainly, if people want to function in this country, they must have one, and yeah, it’s probably time to allocate some money for a free photo ID for people if they can’t otherwise get one.

            Hell, wanna see that pic I have of Nelson Mandela wearing a tee shirt that said “Get an ID and vote”? IT’s not a racist thing to expect people to have an ID. Might be a pain in the butt, but not a “racist” pain in the butt.

            But yeah, it’s “racist” here. Dunno, why, but that’s what is being fed to the loyal faithful. Kinda like “Koch” and “Citizens United” and such.

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