In preparation for what is being called the most regressive voting legislation in the nation, voting rights organizations are scrambling to engage and mobilize voters across the state.
Representatives from the nonpartisan organization Democracy North Carolina visited Winston-Salem last week to talk with Triad area voters about what they can do to minimize the negative impact of the legislation. Democracy North Carolina is holding similar dialogues at sites across the state.
“We want to make sure people have accurate information about the law,” said Democracy NC Training Director Omisade Burney-Scott. “…It behooves all of us to be informed and to tell others the information that you’re learning.”
Voters will notice minimal changes during this year’s municipal elections; however, public financing options — including the tax check off box on tax forms — was ended immediately; and pre-voter registration for teens who will turn 18 before Election Day will end this month.
Beginning in January, a variety of changes will go into effect, including the elimination of same-day registration and straight-party voting. Early voting periods will be reduced from 17 to 10 days, poll hours can no longer be extended due to on-site problems or delays, provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct will not be counted, and “Stand by Your Ad” laws, which require political ads to identify their funding sources, will end, DNC leaders said. The controversial voter ID legislation, which requires voters to show government-issued identification in order to vote, won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2016, but Burney-Scott said state Democratic Party officials are already fielding calls daily from citizens who are concerned that they won’t be able to vote in upcoming municipal elections because they do not have proper identification.
Burney-Scott said a main goal of the statewide education tour is to encourage voters to remain vigilant in the fight for voting rights.
“We’ve got to remember our history with voting rights in this country has been very complex — we’ve had fits and starts,” she said. “It’s up to our generation to take up the mantle and keep pushing forward.”
City Council Member Denise “DD” Adams, one of several local politicians who were on hand at the meeting, said pending election changes make voting in every election, from municipal to state to national, more important than ever.
“What we can do is we can redirect a whole state legislature to people who are interested in our causes and issues,” she said. “We can change the congressional representation in North Carolina.”
The Democracy NC reps offered local residents tips on how they could challenge the voting changes at the grassroots level. Their recommendations included appointing “faith ambassadors” in congregations to organize voter registration drives and other outreach efforts; organizing creative and cultural events to expound on the importance of supporting voting rights; and lobbying local law makers to pass resolutions denouncing Citizens United, the legislation that opened the door for corporations to fund political campaigns.
Dr. Arnold Hence, a photographer and educator, was among the meeting attendees. He said he felt the meeting offered some valuable tools for citizens to employ.
“We want to be the people who make things happen not just let things happen to us,” commented the Stokes County resident. “This is a catalyst to get people talking about the future before it’s suddenly upon us. We’re tapping into the wisdom of some of the elders and trying to find ways to bring the youthful energy and sophistication of the younger people to bear on this problem. If we think holistically, then we can move forward.”
For more information about new rules for 2014 and the photo ID requirement for 2016, visit http://ncelectionconnection.com or call 888-OUR VOTE.