How will GOP gains impact future elections?

Nov. 08, 2012 @ 02:49 PM

The election of Republican Pat McCrory as governor on Tuesday and the continued control of the N.C. General Assembly by the GOP may change the way people vote when they go to the polls two years from now.

McCrory, in his campaign, expressed strong support for voters having to show a photo identification to cast a ballot. The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a voter photo ID bill last year that would have taken effect for this week’s general election. However, the bill was blocked through a veto by outgoing Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Now the Republican leadership in the state House and Senate can resurrect the voter photo ID legislation for the next General Assembly session that begins in January. Spokesmen for House Speaker Thom Tills, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said a voter photo ID bill probably would come up during the next legislative session.

“While we have not set a formal agenda for the 2013 long session, we will likely continue many of our efforts from the last session. Voter ID continues to be an important priority for our members and for the people of this state,” the spokesmen said in a joint statement to The High Point Enterprise.

Voter photo ID efforts have been controversial across the nation, including spurring a series of court challenges. Proponents say that requiring a photo ID at the polls deters voter fraud, but opponents say the practice is a back door method to disenfranchise a disproportionate number of poor and minority voters.

If a voter photo ID bill becomes law, it most likely would be in effect for the 2014 election season. The highest-profile race in two years will involve a Republican challenger to first-term Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro, who once served High Point when she was a state legislator more than 10 years ago.

Democrats in North Carolina shouldn’t be caught off guard if the voter photo ID becomes law, said Matthew DeSantis, professor of political science at Guilford Technical Community College.

“They have two years to get their supporters state-issued identification. It’s not like it’s something being launched on them three months before an election,” DeSantis said.

Another possible change in elections because of Republican gains could involve early voting, especially in Guilford County. Voters on Tuesday shifted the balance of power on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners from the Democrats to Republicans. The commissioners oversee the budget of the Guilford County Board of Elections.

While state law mandates the dates of early voting, and requires each county to make its board of election office available for early voting, the hours and locations of any additional polling places are determined by each county. In some parts of the country, Republicans have limited early voting because early voters tend to lean Democratic.

But DeSantis said local Republicans should be careful about pulling back too much on early voting access, given that it’s become popular since introduced in North Carolina 12 years ago.

“Republicans who were voted in need to be careful that they don’t overreach on policies and get kicked out two or four years from now,” DeSantis said. “Individual citizens like early voting. We may not see it expanded, but I don’t know how much we’ll see it contracted.”