Yesterday, Pat McCrory signed into law one of the most restrictive voter suppression laws in the country. In addition, the Republican-majority Watauga County Board of Elections made voting more difficult for students by eliminating the on-campus early voting site and combining three precincts into one, creating a precinct with almost 10,000 voters at a site with only 35 parking spaces. The goal is quite clear.
Republicans claim they are trying to protect the integrity of elections. What pathetic bullshit. Nobody believes that line except their amen chorus.
They probably could have gotten away with a voter ID bill and eliminating straight-party voting without much fanfare. Instead, they are branding themselves as the party of mean that is trying to gerry-rig the election process like they gerrymandered the districts. In a state known for its resistance to authority, the GOP risks alienating the independent, libertarian-leaning voters they need to keep them in office.
Polls show McCrory’s numbers tanking and the legislature’s disapproval rating heading toward that of Congress. For years, I’ve watched my own informal Facebook focus group of independent-minded voters. During the presidential election, they were almost uniformly down on Obama. Now, they are mad at the North Carolina legislature. I don’t think it’s any one issue; I think it’s a general sense that the legislature is overreaching and making bad decisions.
In addition, Republicans have done more to unify Democrats than anything the party has done for itself in years. The Moral Monday protests have now attracted thousands, if not tens of thousands, and politicized people who, a few years ago, watched from the sidelines. Democrats need to keep them motivated, which is no small order.
The impact of the voter suppression laws will play out over the next few years. Much of what was passed will probably be declared unconstitutional but some will survive judicial scrutiny. Republicans are banking that they can keep more people away from the ballot box than Democrats can put in. The reaction of the independent voter is the unknown. Right now, they are not happy with Republicans. Whether or not that anger subsides will determine the outcome of elections for the next few cycles.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >