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Republican bill would shave a Saturday from NC early voting
Critics say change would limit ballot access
Published Thursday, June 14, 2018 1:50 pm
by Herbert L. White

A change to a Republican-sponsored bill would eliminate a Saturday from North Carolina early voting and standardize operation hours.

Senate Bill 325, if approved, would take effect ahead of the November general election. The proposed House committee substitute would change state law to require uniform early voting hours and mandate county election officials produce annual reports on how voter lists are maintained, including purging.

By removing the final Saturday, it cuts an increasingly popular day for early ballots. In 2016, 193,138 voters went to the polls compared to 103,513 in 2014. African-Americans made widespread use of the final Saturday in 2016, accounting for 28.9 percent of all votes cast. Blacks made up 20.6 percent of North Carolina voters overall.

The bill requires uniform weekend hours for the single weekend of voting as well as uniform hours of 7 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays. Every early voting site must be open all 17 days. Critics contend the rules will stretch election officials and deter weekend early voting. The bill also includes language regarding list maintenance.

“Once again, politicians in Raleigh are coming back for a second bite at voting restrictions first introduced and overturned by a federal court on 2013, without input from election officials and the public,” said Tomas Lopez, executive director of Democracy NC, a nonpartisan voter advocacy group. “This latest proposal not only eliminates the popular, final Saturday of early voting, disproportionately used by African-American voters, but also creates onerous requirements that will put a strain on county election officials, dis-incentivize weekend early voting access, and reduce voters' options to cast a ballot. In addition, it requires that counties report on their list maintenance activity, paving the way for future voter purges.”

The bill also includes a requirement that counties report on purging voter rolls, which could become stricter after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Ohio’s rules in Husted v. APRI.


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