Raleigh, NC - Following the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, the Republican controlled General Assembly will put voting changes on the fast track, according to Dr. Jason Husser, an Asst. Professor at Elon University.
The State House approved a voter ID bill in April requiring one form of photo ID to vote, but it has been in the Senate Rules Committee awaiting the Supreme Court's decision.
On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 required the Department of Justice to review voting changes in 9 states and parts of 14 others, including more than half of the counties in North Carolina.
That requirement is no longer necessary following the ruling, providing the opportunity for North Carolina legislators to make changes without the need for approval from the Department of Justice.
The changes, according to Husser, will likely be photo identification required to vote, elimination of same-day voting and registration, shortened early voting, and elimination of Sunday voting.
Proponents of these policies say it cuts down on voter fraud and lowers the costs to hold elections. Statistics from the State Board of Elections, however, show there is virtually no evidence of voter fraud in our state, coming in at less than one tenth of one percent in the 2012 election.
The motivation is political, according to Husser, who said, "Advocates of the bill say it could prevent fraud. However, ultimately, Republicans will see an overall advantage."
Husser went on to say, "The groups that will be hurt the most are mainly urban minorities who have difficulties reaching polling places either because they work during the day or because they don't have convenient transportation to take them whenever it is easy for them."
Urban minorities are a reliable voting bloc for Democrats year after year.
Another looming factor in this legislation is the 2014 Senate race. House Speaker Thom Tillis (R, Mecklenburg County) is a leading contender to oppose incumbent Sen. Hagan (D) in November of 2014, and Tillis could see an enormous benefit from this bill, according to Husser.
"The person in many ways who has the most influence over this legislation is the person who could benefit the most from it. Thom Tillis is running against Kay Hagan in 2014. It's possible this legislation will give him a couple of points advantage over who turns out on Election Day," Husser said.
In addition to voting changes, Republican leaders in the General Assembly are preparing to act on a campaign promise to loosen gun laws in the state. One of the most controversial changes would remove the requirement to obtain a permit for handgun purchase. Currently, Sheriff's offices issue permits for handguns, but the proposed legislation would remove this requirement by placing handguns in the same category as long guns, instead requiring a background check at the point of purchase from licensed dealers. However, a background check would not be required for private purchases and gun shows.
Both the State House and State Senate have passed separate bills to change gun laws. Leaders from both Chambers are expected to go into remediation this week, and then draft a final bill for consideration.