Just over a month ago, on June 30, the Wake County Board of Elections voted in favor of placing one of Wake County’s 19 early voting sites on NC State’s campus. The day before, a federal appeals court struck down North Carolina’s voter identification law, no longer requiring a voter to show an ID card when they vote and extending early voting by a week.
The two decisions were huge wins for the citizens of North Carolina, signaling a belief in the right for all to vote. No longer could 280,000 registered North Carolina voters be turned down at the polls because they lacked a valid ID, and no longer would the length of early voting be drastically cut in half.
Yet, ever since the end of June, the Republican Party has been swiftly working to counter those decisions, again infringing on North Carolina’s ability to vote. In an email to republican county board of elections members, NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse asked the board members to “make party line changes to early voting,” specifically lowering the time early voting locations are open. Last week, on Aug. 15, Mecklenburg County did just that. Despite more than 100 people showing up to the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections meeting, asking for more early voting hours, the board motioned to have 238 fewer hours of allotted voting time in the 2016 election than were available in 2012.
Essentially, the Republican Party found it important to attempt to limit the number of hours allotted to early voting, hours traditionally used by democrats. Or, as the state put it when asked why it tried to remove a Sunday early voting day in court, the "counties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black" and "disproportionately democratic.”
The Republican Party’s choice to try to turn away voters along not just partisan lines, but also racial lines is shocking and harmful to our state. Voters should choose their representatives, rather than politicians choosing their voters. Unfortunately, the Republican Party’s attack on voting rights didn’t stop there.
On Aug. 8, the Wake County Board of Elections held an emergency conference call meeting, notifying the public of the meeting less than 90 minutes before the meeting occurred. There, in a party-line vote, the board voted to open a single voting site for the extra week of early voting required from the federal appeals court ruling.
The notion that a single voting site in a county of just under a million people is adequate is ridiculous. Four years ago, five Wake County early voting locations were open for early voting for the same week. The 80 percent reduction again sends the message that a citizen’s right and ease to vote is not valued in our state.
Then, in the same meeting, newly appointed republican board member Eddie Woodhouse motioned to remove the early voting site planned on NC State’s campus. Following advice from his cousin, Dallas Woodhouse, who wrote, in the same “party line changes” email referenced earlier, that “no group of people are entitled to their own early voting site, including college students, who already have more voting options than most other citizens.”
So, notifying the public, including the students and staff at NC State who had already worked so hard to earn the on-campus voting site, less than 90 minutes before the meeting, Eddie Woodhouse motioned to make voting so much harder for 34,000 NC State students. The difference between an on-campus voting site with free Wolfline bus access, or a struggle to find a way to vote at a site far removed from campus, hung in the balance for the entire NC State community.
Thankfully, republican board member Ellis Boyle joined democratic board member Mark Ezzell in voting the motion down. Boyle and Ezzell realized the absurdity of the Woodhouse’s — and much of the rest of the Republican Party’s — views on voting. College students certainly don’t have “more voting options than most other citizens” seeing that many lack transportation to get an off-campus voting location, and we certainly shouldn’t try to actively limit certain groups of people from voting. The moment we effectively limit entire groups from voting as the North Carolina Republican Party has done time and time again is the moment democracy fails.