New Hanover County lawmaker wants to shorten early voting statewide. What you need to know.
North Carolina could join a growing list of states nationwide that are restricting voting access after a group of Republican state lawmakers, including one local representative, introduced legislation earlier this month aimed at shortening North Carolina's early voting period.
The proposed legislation is one of a pair of election bills targeted at early and mail-in voting introduced by Republican lawmakers, including State Rep. Ted Davis Jr., who's from New Hanover County.
While Davis didn’t respond to the StarNews’ requests for comment, similar efforts in other states have been undertaken to prevent voter fraud. But some groups say efforts to restrict early voting are nothing more than an attempt to grab power.
Here’s what you need to know about the bill and how it’s part of a nationwide trend:
What would the bill do?
Currently, there are 17 days of early voting in North Carolina. Davis’ bill would reduce that to nine by changing when early voting can begin.
Rather than starting on the third Thursday before Election Day, Davis’ bill would open early voting on the second Saturday before Election Day. The bill doesn’t change when early voting ends, nor does it stop early voting on the final Saturday before Election Day, according to the proposed legislation.
Is early voting popular?
Early voting has exploded in popularity in the past 20 years to become the preeminent form of voting in the previous two midterm elections.
One-stop early voting accounted for 53% of all votes cast in the 2022 midterm election, according to statistics from the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Twenty years ago, one-stop early voting accounted for less than a quarter of all votes cast.
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Why change the number of early voting days?
Nationwide, Republican state legislatures introduced similar rules in the name of election integrity. But groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union say Republican efforts are a form voter suppression used for political gain.
As of Jan. 25, state lawmakers in at least 32 states had introduced 150 voting bills that would make it harder for Americans to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a policy group that advocates for increased voting access. Most of the 150 bills target mail-in voting, but many others are seeking to restrict or end early voting altogether.
Early voting is more popular among Democrats nationwide, including in North Carolina. In 2022, nearly a third of all early voting ballots were cast by Democratic voters, according to statistics from the State Board of Elections. Republican voters also used early voting in large numbers, but trailed Democratic turnout by more than 150,000 votes in the 2022 midterm election.
What's the latest on the bill?
Davis and three other representatives introduced the bill on March 7. The piece of legislation was passed on its first reading two days later, and, as of Monday, is waiting in committee for consideration.
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This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: New Hanover County lawmaker, Republicans take aim at early voting