Why don't they want us to vote?

Published August 31, 2023

By Tom Campbell

Our legislature continues to dance to the tunes played by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC promotes conservative agendas and legislation and encourages the narrative that the 2020 election was stolen through voter fraud. Never mind 60 courts have ruled to the contrary.

Our state passed SB747, a restrictive election law, claiming it was an “election integrity measure.” 

Governor Cooper vetoed SB747 saying, “This legislation has nothing to do with election security and everything to do with Republicans keeping and gaining power. It requires valid votes to be tossed out unnecessarily, schemes to restrict early voting and absentee ballots, encourages voter intimidation and attempts to give Republican legislators the authority to decide contested election results.”

Cleta Mitchell, likely one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the Jack Smith federal case against Trump, actively advised our lawmakers in drafting 747. That should worry us.

SB747 states that no longer will an absentee ballot be counted if it is received within three days of the election, even if postmarked on or before election day. An absentee ballot will only be counted if it is received by 7:30 p.m. (time the polls close) on election day. Mail-in voting is totally dependent on the US Postal Service….the agency that has seen staff reductions, largescale elimination of mail processing equipment and less dependable mail delivery service.

There have been very few documented examples where our election officials have not made consistent and wise decisions regarding absentee ballots and, in the one congressional election where ballot harvesting took place, election officials took firm action to throw out the results and hold a new vote. But let’s make it as difficult as possible to vote by mail and call it election integrity.

Same-day voter registration and voting will now only count if that same US Postal Service is able to deliver the voter registration card to the listed address after one attempt.

Certain counties will be required to conduct a signature match to determine if the signed ballot matches the voter registration. And poll “observers” are given more leeway to intimidate or influence voters, along with more opportunities to challenge registrations. These observers may take notes, listen in on conversations between election officials and voters, have almost totally free access to the voting space and watch setup and tear down procedures at each site. Why was this necessary, since there have been few significant substantiated disputes about interference or improper conduct by officials inside the polling place? Election officials from both parties uniformly state this is neither necessary nor desirable.

SB747 further restricts outside donations aimed at helping assist counties in conducting elections. Face it, elections have become more complicated, more contentious and require more voter assistance, therefore more personnel.  What are local election boards to do if the legislature won’t provide adequate funding?

Another bill which has passed the Senate but (at this writing) has not passed in the House is SB749 and is mislabeled “No Partisan Advantage in Elections.” Historically, the State Board of Elections has consisted of 5 members – three from the party of the sitting governor and two from the other political party. This bill would reverse this longstanding practice at both the state and county election levels to include two members from each party. Further, they want to take away the power of the Governor to name these members, giving legislators this authority. If you are ahead of me (and jumped to the same conclusion as I) you’re asking what is going to happen when there are tie votes, which in our hyper partisan culture is a dead certainty? And you guessed it, the legislature will break the tie. Is this your definition of nonpartisan? This bill hasn’t passed but the governor promises to veto it if it does pass.

The Cooper veto of SB747 will most likely have been overridden by the time you read this, but the Governor promises court action.

To further compound election issues, beginning this year you must have a valid photo ID to vote. There has been some effort put into approving a wide variety of photo identifications. We think a good case can be made for having to prove your identity when you vote and hope this new wrinkle will go smoothly.

Here’s my spin: By following the “me too” ALEC agenda, our legislature is mandating solutions in search of a problem. They seem intent on undermining our trust in the election process, which repeatedly has been proven safe, well administered and without corruption.  

It really feels as if they (legislative leaders) don’t want us to vote. Why? And why are they insistent on creating distrust in our election process? The only conclusion a reasonable person can reach is that Republicans are afraid they will lose elections if there is a level playing field and all were encouraged to vote.

Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965.  Contact him at tomcamp@carolinabroadcasting.com.