Today was the final day for state Senators to file new bills – and many of them seemed to be competing for who could file the meanest, nastiest bill. In the area of elections, freshman Sen. Bill Cook (R-Beaufort Co.) filed a bill appropriately numbered S-666 that would take away the parent’s tax deduction for a dependent child who registera to vote in the community where he or she attends college; gives partisan observers inside polling facilities greater ability to challenge a voter; slices a week off Early Voting; and restricts Early Voting to just one location per county. Sen. Buck Newton (R-Wilson Co.) is co-chair of the Judiciary I Committee so his “Election Omnibus” bill (S-721) must be taken seriously. It includes a strict photo ID requirement; collapses Early Voting to just six days; repeals Same-Day Registration; and spits on anyone who has had a felony conviction. Newton’s bill says serving your full sentence is not good enough; you’d have to wait five years after completing the sentence to request restoration of your voting rights; approval depends on unanimous consent of the local board of elections members and two affidavits from local voters about your “upstanding moral character.”
From another world, where voting is encouraged, members of the Legislative Black Caucus introduced bills in the House and Senate to expand voter participation. The Ella Baker Voter Empowerment Act (S-708), allows for Election Day registration and voting; requires Early Voting sites to open during more weekend hours and “on or adjacent to” campuses of large colleges in even-numbered years; gives state workers paid time off to serve as an poll judge; releases the frozen HAVA funds; provides for online voter registration (as does a new separate bill, S-688); and beefs up training of poll officials and high school civics education.