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This week in disappointment: voting rights take a hit

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Did you play the N.C. Voter ID game? If so, then you have an idea of the malice contained in House Bill 589. House Bill 589, named "VIVA," which, ironically, means "life" in Spanish, the bill would kill the fairness of North Carolina elections.

Democracy North Carolina has an excellent analysis of the bill. In addition, here are a few of the lowlights:

• It would cut a full week off early voting, from 17 days to 10. That's no typographical error: In recent years, Democrats have voted early in greater numbers than Republicans.

• Eliminate same-day registration during that period. This would deter many North Carolina voters from casting ballots, especially newcomers (read: liberal carpetbaggers from blue states) who may not know the registration deadline.

• Eliminates straight party ticket voting, which also works against Democrats;

• Penalizes young voters by prohibiting college IDs as an acceptable form of identification to vote;

• Penalizes elderly and disabled voters by makes it more difficult to add satellite polling sites to accommodate them;

• Authorizes political party chairpersons from each county to designate as many as 12 "observers" to roam inside and outside polling places. This ostensibly deputizes partisan people to try to ferret out voter "fraud"—of which there is virtually none. The main qualifications for poll voyeurs? They must be registered voters of the county where they're observing—which could preclude nonpartisan observers from Amnesty International, for example. They also must have "good moral character."

Whoever decides that.

Not under intense scrutiny are absentee ballots, which are more popular among Republicans than Democrats. And yet history has shown that absentee ballots are the weak link in the fraud chain.

While HB 589 tightens voting restrictions, it relaxes campaign finance laws.

• It would raise contribution limits to $5,000—we can smell the wire transfers now—and, unlike food stamp allocations, the maximum amounts increase every two years according to inflation.

• Reduce disclosure of electioneering communications—broadcast ads paid for by outside groups that refer to candidates—in state and federal elections

• Reduce disclosure requirements of outside money

• Repeal the voter-owned elections fund, a voluntary program that allowed candidates to run for office without courting large donors. Qualified candidates receive a public grant and must adhere to certain fundraising restrictions. The system makes room for less-wealthy people to seek office; it has been used in Chapel Hill.

• Repeal the judicial election fund, which allowed judges to raise money from sources other than lawyers and special interests that could appear before them in court. The money came from a check off box on the state income tax form, plus a $50 surcharge on annual fees attorneys pay to the State Bar.

• Would not require candidates to file documents electronically. That presents major transparency issues, especially for citizens who don't have the time or ability to trudge to their local or state board of elections to examine campaign finance reports.

The Senate rules committee was debating the bill Tuesday afteroon. Check INDY Week's Triangulator blog for results.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Kill bill."

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