Tim Kaine came to North Carolina today to inspire GOTV. Here is WRAL’s coverage of the event. (Though planning to go, in the end, I was unable to attend.) Indeed, early voting began today in North Carolina! And it is clear North Carolinians are ready to get this show on the road.
Previously, I have reported on different facets of North Carolina’s unfortunate backward turn. As just one example, the GOP dominated GA passed a 50-page law with dozens of voting changes. Voter ID was only part of the story. Early voting, which ordinarily lasts for over two weeks, was severely crimped. Same day registration was gone. Out of precinct voting was gone. Straight party voting, whereby one could check one box to vote for the entire slate, was finished.
Quite a few Virginia residents wondered why we complained when the GOP sharply restricted early voting in NC. They thought we had it pretty good because some early voting was retained. But North Carolina never purchased enough voting machines in the first place. Over the years, lines wind for hours at many precincts. Without substantial early voting, this amounts to vote suppression. It is one of many approaches to stifle turnout. In more populous areas, Virginians know crowded polling places too. And multi-day voting would ease this problem. Voting should be made easier for citizens, not all of whom can get away from work to vote on a single day. Getting to choose your day and time really helps many busy people.
When the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals weighed in, they found obvious evidence of nefarious vote suppression and so prior reforms were mostly reinstated, except for straight party voting. Photo ID was deferred for now. Perhaps even more important than early voting, is same day registration. This single thing reduces the ability of the GOP to wage illicit purges of voters. If a qualified voter is wrongly purged, same day registration can be accomplished with the provision of required documents. Voting before the last day can enable wrongly purged voters the heads up they need to restore their voting rights. A few years back thousands were removed from the voter rolls in Virginia with insufficient time for lawful voters to reestablish their status. This should never happen. And same day registration also solves the problem in Virginia this past week when the system crashed. In NC problem solved. After in person (at the Registrar) or by mail ends, you can still go to the polls during early voting, present all your documents during in-person early voting and register. This cannot be done on Nov 8th. With computer systems, officials have the same ability to check voters out on the spot as they would have at the registrar of voters. And so, here we are…
Were you to have observed polling places here today, you would have seen remarkably long lines. So how does early voting help then, you ask? For one thing, there are a smaller number of polling places open in early voting (we had to lobby hard to get as many restored as we did), but the process runs from today through Nov 5. Then Nov 8th all precincts are open. Contrary to stories that there is little interest in the 2016 race, it seems many were in a rush to vote on the first day. There were even multiple bipartisan marches to the polls in Raleigh and nearby Carborro. But multi-day voting spreads out the crowds on most days, eliminating the problems many workers, especially hourly workers, and those working long hours, have getting away from their workplaces long enough to vote. So, there it is: We haven’t been the best shining example to the nation recently. But we have at least one thing to teach the rest of America. It should be easy to vote. Let’s really show the world how it’s done. May you work for early voting in Virginia too. As for us, we will have to remain vigilant, fighting future GOP efforts to stifle the vote. But today, it’s all good. Turnout was brisk. Onward to Nov 8th!