If all other reasons for pulling the plug on a bill that would shrink the early voting period fail to persuade N.C. lawmakers, this one should do the trick. The bill, which would deprive voters of the flexibility to cast ballots during an extended early voting period before Election Day, would increase the cost of elections.
You read that right – increase the cost.
That’s what Gary Bartlett, executive director of the state elections board, said in a memo last week. Mecklenburg County Elections Director Michael Dickerson made similar comments. He said 45,000 county voters voted in the first week of early voting here in Mecklenburg County in 2008. If there is a shorter voting period in 2012, he might ask his board to open 30 voting sites, 10 more than in 2008, to avoid longer lines.
Bartlett said reducing the early voting days wouldn’t just mean opening new precincts and buying equipment to deal with greater Election Day turnout either. It would also mean elections officials would have less flexibility in allocating staff and equipment. That flexibility is a cost and resource saver that election offices need.
Dickerson and Bartlett are bringing logical thinking to a debate that, sadly, has so far lacked it. The Republican-dominated legislature has pushed this for ideological reasons, joining GOP legislatures in other states in erecting obstacles to voting with new requirements such as picture IDs and elimination of same-day registration and voting. S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law a voter ID bill last Wednesday.
… Making it harder for people to cast ballots in elections is crazy and un-American. State and federal laws have greatly expanded voter registration opportunities and allowed more flexibility in when to cast ballots. That has brought the ideal of full participation by voters closer to reality.