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Another GOP effort to limit the N.C. vote

It wouldn’t be a Republican-led legislative session if there weren’t at least one attempt to make it harder for Democrats to vote.

In a bill filed Wednesday, N.C. House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes of Caldwell County has helpfully rolled all the usual tricks into one tidy voter suppression bundle. House Bill 451 would shorten the state’s popular early voting period by one week, end Sunday voting and eliminate same-day voting registration. Democrats have successfully used all of the above better than Republicans to get out the vote.

The bill doesn’t stop there. It would end straight-ticket voting, which Democrats also tend to use more frequently. We’re not fans of straight-ticket voting, which gives voters the opportunity to cast ballots without having to think about the individual candidates who might represent them. But given the rest of Starnes’ bill, we’re pretty certain he didn’t target the straight ticket with voter integrity in mind.

One more gem in HB 451: It would loosen absentee voting requirements by allowing people to bring in written requests for absentee ballots from others to their county board of elections and collect their ballots. This from the party that is so troubled by voter fraud that it keeps trying to tackle a problem that doesn’t exist – in-person voter fraud – with voter ID legislation. The voter fraud problem that does exist – absentee fraud – would certainly not be helped by this silly measure.

We’d hoped that Republicans would finally get that it’s not smart to insult the electorate by trying to change the locks for your opponents’ supporters. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger, who might soon covet jobs that require statewide support, should give HB 451 the squashing it deserves.

School safety bill wisely targets crisis prevention

There’s a lot to like about a bipartisan N.C. House bill on school safety unveiled Thursday. We especially like the fact that bill gives local districts matching grants not only to hire more school resource officers but to hire school psychologists, social workers and guidance counselors.

Those vital support services took a big whack when the N.C. legislature slashed funding for public schools during the economic downturn. That legislative myopia left schools bereft of services to help students, especially those with emotional problems who pose safety threats.

Ronald Stephens, head of the National School Safety Center, noted that lawmakers are wisely taking a multi-pronged approach by emphasizing crisis prevention as much as response.

We also like the fact that this bill focuses on providing more trained police officers to schools. A proposed Senate measure that aims to arm and train school employees who are not law enforcers is dangerous and wrong-headed.

We’re eager to see how lawmakers plan to fund this effort. Money should not come from short-changing public schools on academic needs.

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