RALEIGH - Hours before a Senate panel considers a bill redefining how people vote, advocacy groups planted pink flamingos in the statehouses front lawn to suggest the rewrite will lead to the same long voting lines and problems that plagued the 2012 election in Florida.
Senate Republican leaders are planning to take a voter ID bill and add provisions that cut early voting by a week, repeal same-day registration, allow counties to limit Sunday voting, end pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds and end straight-ticket voting.
Other provisions increase the maximum donation to political candidates from $4,000 to $5,000, with future increases indexed to inflation, and limit disclosure of money spent by outside political groups that air political TV ads and send mass mailings.
Another part of the bill would move the states May presidential primary to a week after South Carolina, if the southern neighbor votes before March 15 which is widely expected. Such a move may open North Carolina political delegates to sanctions from the national party.
All this debuts two days before the legislature is expected to adjourn for the year. Its unclear if House lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory agree with the legislation. Rep. David Lewis, the House Elections chairman, said early Tuesday he was still reviewing the bill. But he said the House opposes prohibiting state-issued college IDs from being used as photo identification at the polls.
Senate Republicans defend the voter ID measure, saying it will ensure the perception of fraud-free elections, and suggested the tweaks to early voting periods represent a restructuring and not imposing limits.
Progress North Carolinas Justin Guillory, wearing a floral print shirt and surrounded by flamingos, blasted the elections bill Tuesday morning. He noted that Floridas decision to curtail early voting led to massive lines on Election Day, forcing the states Republican lawmakers and governor to reinstate them earlier this year.
Despite warnings, North Carolina is poised to make the same mistakes Florida made, said Guillory, a spokesman for the organization, which opposes much of the Republican legislative agenda.
Bob Hall with Democracy North Carolina, an elections advocacy group, said the measures, particularly early voting limits, appear aimed at limiting Democratic support.
This is political bullies rigging the election system for their own self interest, he said.
The voter ID measure would become the nations strictest, he said, and called the additional election measures tucked into the latest version of the bill unconscionable.
The Senate Rules Committee is expected to hear the bill at a 2 p.m. meeting.
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