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Officials prepare for new voting law

 

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writer

 

Following Gov. Pat McCrory giving his stamp of approval earlier this month to a bill that brings sweeping changes to North Carolina’s voting process, local Board of Elections officials have been learning the ropes of the new law.

The Republican-backed bill, which received McCrory’s signature after it was approved by the N.C. General Assembly, includes the controversial requirement of a photo ID for those headed to the polls. This provision will not go into effect until 2016.

Numerous other changes are included in the measure, such as the reduction of early voting by a week and the elimination of same-day registration and straight-ticket voting.

Legal challenges have already been filed in federal court, and critics of the bill include the American Civil Liberties Union and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

It remains to be seen what becomes of opposition efforts, but, in the meantime, the bill is “consuming” Crystal Lovingood, assistant director for the county’s Board of Elections.

She is in the process of getting fully acquainted with the legislation, as she and her co-workers will soon have to start educating the public on it this year.

“According to our records here in Lincoln County, we have approximately 486 people who are not showing to have a driver’s license number in our county,” she said. “This is an approximate number.”

Other figures break down the number of people who did not provide identification when they registered in the past or who the state has been unable to match information for with the Department of Motor Vehicles, with 235 unaffiliated, 118 Democratic and 126 Republican local voters in this category.

There are currently 51,729 people registered to vote in Lincoln County.

While critics say the bill unfairly restricts the voting rights of minorities and the poor, Lovingood hasn’t found that to be the case locally.

“It doesn’t seem to target any particular demographic, although a large part of these are persons 18 to 22 years old,” she said. “Also, the young people are no longer allowed to preregister anymore at the DMV, so if this bill hurts anyone, it appears to be younger people, in my opinion.”

Another age group has already been seeking information from Lovingood about the new law.

“If a senior has a driver’s license issued at age 70 or later, no matter what age they are now, only these persons can use an expired driver’s license or identification card to vote, which I found especially helpful as I had a father who was 91 and could not drive but still carried his driver’s license,” she said. “He could have still voted with this.”

While the voter-ID provision has received the most attention, the cutting back on the early-voting period has also sparked some heated debate.

An analysis released in July by Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan election-reform group, used data provided by the State Board of Elections to see how many people took advantage of the now-restricted early voting and same-day registration during the 2012 election.

For Lincoln County, the study revealed that 50 percent of ballots cast in the county were done so through early voting, while same-day registration accounted for just under 2 percent.

 

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