By Wendy Byerly Wood
August 14, 2013
It is a shame what the state has done, and what its citizens have allowed to happen.
Right there on CNN Tuesday morning, one of the highlight news stories was about North Carolina passing one of the most restrictive voting laws in the United States. Along with the news cast was a video of the long lines at the Florida polls after that state cut down on the number of days allowed for early voting right before the 2012 presidential election.
As a poll judge in my own little precinct and a voter myself, the concept behind requiring some sort of ID to vote is a good one. Whether it is a voter registration card, driver’s license, state ID, those things are fine to be required.
But while the governor and state legislators who voted in favor of the law are promoting it as an ID law, they have cast a shadow to hide all of the other things the law has changed for voters.
As a college student who attended a school more than three hours from my home, I would have been adamantly opposed to the new law, which does not allow college students to vote via absentee ballot anymore — the very way I was able to use my voice in elections while away at college.
Instead college students are supposed to drive three, four, five hours home to vote and miss classes? It seems the legislators are wanting to limit the number of people who make it to the polls and might vote for someone else.
Also, the new law reduces the number of early voting days allowed from 17 days to 10 days. While this may be a good way to save taxpayer money by not having to staff the early voting polls for as many days, it also limits the chances for a working voter to make it to the polls when he or she might have a busy schedule working one or two jobs and can’t get there.
It also makes it inconvenient when a person might be pregnant and expecting right around election day. Little Man was due on Election Day 2010, so I was fortunate enough to go early to vote so that I wouldn’t miss my chance. Luckily I went two or three weeks early, because my labor was induced a week before Election Day after I had been on bed rest for a week or two.
If the law had been in effect during my pregnancy, there is a chance my right to vote would have been restricted, simply because I wouldn’t have had the chance to get to the polls if there had not been early voting set up a couple of weeks prior to Election Day.
That’s my right being denied, taken away.
The reason CNN posted pictures of long lines at the Florida polls last year was to show what might happen now that North Carolina has fewer days for people to make it to the polls prior to Election Day.
Another change to the voting law that doesn’t affect people showing IDs, which remember was the reason for the law to pass, is the elimination of same-day voter registration at the early voting sites, but also eliminates the ability for teenagers who will turn 18 by Election Day to register in advance of their 18th birthday, meaning if their birthday falls after the deadline for voter registration for an election then they can’t vote because same-day registration has been eliminated.
In other countries people walk, crawl, hitchhike from miles around for the opportunity to vote. Here, our opportunities to vote have been limited, and in some cases eliminated.
It is against the basic principles the country was founded on — freedom of speech, freedom to voice our opinions, to decide who represents us and make decisions on our behalf. This very decision made by our representatives goes against what they stand for.
Yes, people should need more than walking up to a table and stating their name and address to be able to vote as that person. There should be some form of identification proving they are the person they are, especially in a day and age when identity theft runs rampant.
But these other restrictions/laws are uncalled for, and need to be undone.
Maybe if we found a way to limit their chances of voting in the next election, the legislators would think twice about what they’ve done to the citizens of the state.
Wendy Byerly Wood is the associate editor of The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1923.