Thursday, November 01, 2018

How the Republican General Assembly May Have Screwed Their Own Voters

Played a lot of Hearts when I was in college and living in a dorm. The local vernacular for that card game -- at a Southern Baptist college with strict rules -- was "f**k your buddy." Because you could slip your dorm-mate, on any dealt hand, a deadly grenade with the pin pulled.

I'm thinking f**k your buddy was the game Berger/Moore were inadvertently playing last June in the General Assembly when they changed (once again) the Early Voting law, a change that has ultimately hurt Republican voters in rural areas. Here's the play-by-play:

Members of Wake Co Bd of Elections
discuss Early Voting locations,
July 10, 2018.
Photo WRAL
In the waning hours of the session...
A. June 13 -15, 2018: New law is written and hurried through both chambers in a flat 40 hours on party-line votes mandating that early voting locations in each county be open uniformly from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Republican lawmakers say the changes were important "to ensure consistency within counties, cut down on voter confusion, and expand hours for casting ballots." All high-minded shit. But everyone knowledgeable about Berger/Moore knew the ulterior motive: With a mandate of 12-hour days at every site, some counties would be forced to retrench. The prejudice against Early Voting is based on Democrats' loving it and Republicans under-utilizing it.
NOTE: Early Voting has been one of the chief targets of Berger/Moore in squashing the votes of their opponents. Republicans have resisted Early Voting and tend to roll out on Election Day itself. So the reasoning must have gone: If you squeeze the dollar resources of small counties, then you force more Early Voting into the offices of the local Board of Elections, which will discourage Democrats. (And that's what the presently proposed Constitutional Amendment is all about. With a 4-4 partisan split on the board, no contested Early Voting plans from any county can get approval, which means, under statute language, all Early Voting in that county must take place in the office of the Board of Elections, and only in that office, which is often a small space in the county courthouse.)
B. June 25: Governor Cooper vetoes the rewrite of the Early Voting law.
C. June 27: NC House completes the override of the governor's veto, and Senate Bill 325 becomes law.
And ... surprise! The law is possibly biting Republicans harder than Democrats.

A WRAL-TV investigation of 70 NC counties that had to reduce Early Voting plans because of the new mandate found that rural voters have been disproportionately impacted by the new law:
With some Early Voting satellite sites now closed because of lack of funding, voters in some rural counties are disproportionately farther away from their nearest early voting location. A greater percentage of white and Republican voters have farther to travel.

Some 70 counties, but not true in Watauga. Every rural Early Voting site we had in 2016 is still open in 2018, and now open for very long 12-hour days. The Watauga County Commission (majority Democrat) coughed up the extra money to keep all satellite sites open 12 hours a day for the entire 17-day period. That takes a lot more money for additional salaries for workers as well as incidental expenses. Before the law changed, Watauga could vary the hours to maximize use and save money. For example, the ASU site was previously open a fraction of the full time.

The Republican excuse for changing the law was to "cut down on voter confusion," they said, which may be the greatest laugh-line of 2018.

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