New North Carolina voting laws are unnecessarily restrictive

In the United States of America, voting is a right granted to all American citizens, but one would be in their right mind to question this when faced with North Carolina’s new voting laws bill. The bill, which will go into effect by the time of the 2016 elections, hosts a whole slew of new voter restrictions. In addition to these new voting restrictions, the bill was rushed through both the North Carolina House and Senate within weeks of the end of their term, leaving little time to debate the controversial factors on the bill, and left no room for official public input on the bill. When voting is a basic right of American citizens, state governments should be making voting as easy a process as possible for people, not making it more difficult. Without the proper input from as many citizens as possible, elections are not a proper representation of public interests.

Within the plethora of new restrictions, the opportunity for 16 and 17 year-olds to preregister to vote has been taken away, a factor that some high school civics and economics teachers used in their own classes as lesson. Other 16 and 17 year-olds filled out the previous pre registration form while signing up for permits and licenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles. This means that students with birth dates closer to elections dates will not be able to register until they are legally 18 and will either be in a rush to register on time, or end up missing the voting registration cut off entirely. Same-day registration has also been cut, which was used as a resource for a number of North Carolina voters. The elimination of this resource was entirely unnecessary. While these two cuts alone do not make it substantially harder or impossible for eligible voters to register, it does create excessive obstacles that voters are then forced to navigate through.When a lack of funds to facilitate these sort of programs and the integrity of the voting process are cited as the logic behind this bill, people are left wondering what the real possible reasoning could be seeing as these cuts play little into either of those factors.

The new bill also eliminated the annual state-sponsored voter registration drive, increased the number of poll observers allowed at any particular polling location, changed the photo identification requirements and cut early voting day and poll hours. North Carolina politicians are boasting that the new bill has only strengthened the trustworthiness of voting in the state by eliminating possibilities for voter fraud, but actual instances of voting fraud in the past few years in North Carolina have been few and far between, with the state Board of Elections referring to only two cases of voter impersonation fraud in the last nine years. In reality, the real fraud here is the barriers that are being put up between eligible voters and their right to vote. This new bill is a purposeful attempt to restrict the voting rights of voters in North Carolina, keeping them away from the polls and their voices silenced, no matter how advocates of the bill try to manipulate the facts.

Facing legal challenges from a variety of civil rights groups, and criticism from Ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell, the bill has already drawn nationwide attention. The time has come for North Carolina to stop ending up in national news headlines for all the wrong reasons. Politicians in North Carolina can only silence the voices of the people they are elected to represent for so long, and that time is coming to an end. With the new voter restrictions, people will be as eager as ever to get to the polls, hopefully even voting out of office those who helped to create the new restrictions in the first place.