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For immediate release.
May 11, 2011
Contact: Bryan Warner, N.C. Center for Voter Education, 877-258-6837 or
NCCVE Response to Bill Shortening Early Voting in N.C.
RALEIGH – On a 16-14 vote, the N.C. House Elections Committee today approved H658, which would reduce North Carolina's early voting period by one week.
The following is a statement by Damon Circosta, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, in response to the proposed limitation on early voting:
"We live in a frazzled age. North Carolinians live increasingly busy and hectic lives. While most of us value civic participation, voting often is not the first thing we think about when trying to piece together our various responsibilities to our families, employers and community.
"Over the last several sessions, the state legislature has expanded the time and manner in which we can participate in self-government. Lawmakers have recognized that more opportunities to vote mean that we, the people, are more likely to engage.
"In 2008, thanks in part to expansive early voting opportunities, we saw nearly 70 percent of registered voters turn out. Many of us were ecstatic that more people were participating. In 2010, we saw roughly a third of voters use early voting. While those two elections had very different partisan outcomes, what they had in common was a renewed vigor in our political process. In each of those elections the victors were ones who could utilize expansive voting opportunities to get their supporters to the polls. This is what our democracy should be about and the more people who participate, the healthier our democracy is.
"It is understandable that lawmakers are looking to save money wherever they can, but restricting the times where we, as citizens, can engage in the political process is not the way to do it. Voting is one of the precious few opportunities that we, as citizens, have to steer the outcome of our government. This bill will not create any serious cost savings and by restricting our opportunity to participate, the bill will fuel the very cynicism legislators came to Raleigh to eradicate.
"We have reached all-time lows in citizen confidence in government; much of the cynicism comes from feeling like the process is rigged. By restricting, even by a few days, the opportunity to vote, lawmakers are sending the message that our input is no longer needed. Given that so many North Carolinians already view state government with a jaundiced eye, this is exactly the wrong message to be sending."
Founded in 1999, the N.C. Center for Voter Education is a Raleigh-based nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, dedicated to helping citizens more fully participate in democracy.