One consequence of absolute power can be overreach, which is what Republicans did in making sweeping changes to North Carolina’s voter laws.
With a Republican governor disinclined to wield his veto pen, GOP majorities in the House and Senate shortened early voting by a week, ended same-day registration and required North Carolina voters to show a photo ID at the polls.
I’m OK with voter ID, both philosophically and practically. Philosophically because voting is simply too important for the state to take your word that you are who you say you are. Practically because almost everyone 18 and older has a photo ID, and for those who don’t, the state is ready to issue one.
I’m ambivalent about same-day registration. On the one hand, anyone who’s not catatonic knows that Americans vote every year for someone – town leaders in odd-numbered years, the U.S. House in even-numbered years and for president every four years. Given that, why does anyone need to wait until the last minute to register? At the same time, if you’re carrying a state-issued photo ID that you must show at the polls, I don’t know that I care when you register.
Of the changes to North Carolina’s voter laws, the one I cannot abide is shortening early voting. I am always heartened when I read about the high voter turnout in countries holding their first free elections, and yet here in America, the land of the free, we have politicians limiting when people vote. Again, if we know ID-toting voters are who they say they are, why should we care when they cast their ballots?
Voter ID is, rightly, about who votes. The other changes suggest to me that Republicans are worried also about how people vote. Their assumptions, probably correct, are that people who register at the last minute are likely to vote Democratic. Ditto for people for who vote on Saturdays and Sundays. So are Republicans afraid that the other party’s message will appeal to more voters?
That, my fellow Republicans, is the price of any free election – that the other party’s platform will prevail. But in case Republicans have forgotten, just nine months ago, their message won the N.C. House, N.C. Senate and the Governor’s Mansion.. Republican Mitt Romney also carried North Carolina. In short, the Tar Heel State now has a Republican majority.
The possible irony is that because of voter backlash against voter ID, etc., changes made to protect that GOP majority could very well cost Republicans their ascendancy in 2014.