Column: N.C. legislators pull last-minute switch

Jul. 27, 2013 @ 01:03 AM

Sneaky. It’s my word of the day for describing our state legislature. This time it’s a Republican-controlled legislature, but I’m not naïve enough to think the same word didn't apply when it was Democratic-controlled.

Today I am talking about the election changes that were approved this past week. Originally this bill passed the House in April and set requirements for voters to show photo identification at the polls, to the dismay of many. But then Senate leaders waited until this week to take it up, the last week of the legislative session, to add more than 50 additional provisions.

The original bill was bad enough, as most believe that it would discourage minorities, elderly and the poor from voting since many people do not currently have photo IDs, would have to pay to get one and might not have a birth certificate or other documents needed to get one.

But if that wasn’t restrictive enough, the new changes do things like cut a week of early voting (which continues to be more and more popular in North Carolina and other states so people can avoid election-day lines), eliminate same-day registration, and drop the high school civics class on voting that encouraged young people to register to vote prior to their 18th birthday. Now the youth will be less likely to vote.

One of my biggest concerns is that the new bill weakens disclosure requirements for those paying for campaign ads -- not only who pays for the ads, but candidates would no longer have to appear on screen and take responsibility for a negative ad that attacks an opponent -- and allows candidates access to unlimited corporate donations. This is scary. We should want to know what businesses, groups and individuals have their hands in the pockets of our politicians. It also ensures incumbents an easier path to re-election. More viable candidates and more conversation about issues is just good democracy.

With fewer poor, elderly, young and minority citizens likely to vote, the state legislature has targeted groups that do not typically vote the GOP ticket. I am more concerned fewer voices will be heard, and that’s just not good democracy.