North Carolina's Voter ID, Abortion Bills Pass the Legislature

North Carolina's Voter ID, Abortion Bills Pass the Legislature

The North Carolina State legislature, now running on a Republican supermajority, just passed a handful of bills on the last full day of the North Carolina legislature's session, including a strict, omnibus voter law bill and an anti-abortion measure that will increase regulations on clinics performing abortions, and bar abortion coverage from several publicly-linked insurance schemes

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Both bills go to North Carolina governor Pat McCrory's desk for his signature. McCrory, who had campaigned on a promise to not sign new abortion restrictions into law, has indicated he will, actually, sign the new abortion measure, after Republicans drew up language that convinced the governor the new rules wouldn't "unduly" restrict abortion access. That bill, Senate Bill 353, is a compromise bill drafted after the governor whispered a veto threat to a more restrictive anti-abortion and anti-sharia hybrid bill

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But the voting bill, framed as a Voter ID bill by its supporters, even though just 3 of its 57 pages pertain to voter IDs, is likely the bill that, failing a court challenge or a surprise veto from the governor, will have the most broad effect on the state's residents. In addition to limiting the number of acceptable IDs for voters, the bill imposes a number of restrictions that will limit access to the polls, especially for Democrats, African Americans, and lower income voters. Sunday voting, early voting, and same-day registration are severely limited or eliminated under the new bill. It eliminates high school registration drives for 16 and 17-year-olds. It eliminates provisional voting for residents who show up to the wrong precinct, and it prohibits counties from extending voting hours by one hour should there be an extraordinary circumstance, for instance, extremely long lines. Counties anticipating a crowd would also be barred from opening up polls on the Saturday before election day in order to accommodate everyone. 

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In defense of the bill's limitations on early voting, Republican state Senator Jerry Tillman said "If we've voted for over 200 years in one day and we now can't vote in a week, something's wrong." He, according to the Charlotte Observer's report, did not address the fact that 200 years ago, only a small fraction (white, male property owners) of the population could even vote — suffrage for all white males didn't even gain state-by-state traction until the 1820's, with voting rights for African Americans and women coming much later. Other defenders of the bill claim that the new measures will increase voter confidence in the system, eventually increasing turnout.  

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Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is likely to target North Carolina for federal oversight in the wake of the new bill, should it become law. On Thursday, Eric Holder announced his intention to use other parts of the Voting Rights Act left intact by the Supreme Court in order to regain oversight over states and counties with histories of voter discrimination. The flurry of legislation from the Republican majority has also inspired another oppositional force, in the form of a weekly protest movement in the state. The "Moral Mondays," are held each week outside the state's General Assembly.