Whether the politician you love to hate is Barack Obama or Bob Rucho, Pat Cotham or Patrick McHenry, voters seem increasingly aware of the axiom: Elections have consequences.
Alert: Voting starts Thursday in an election that will have consequences.
In April? Yes. Many races will be decided in the voting that starts Thursday and ends in two weeks, because the candidates face no opposition, or token opposition, in November.
Rucho’s fate, for example, will be sealed by May 6. N.C. Sen. Malcolm Graham’s replacement will be decided. U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger will be reelected or upset; Mecklenburg County commissioner Vilma Leake, too.
Rep. Thom Tillis’s replacement will be all but settled, and Mel Watt’s likely successor will be known. Then there’s that little matter of which Republican will challenge U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.
Voters in Mecklenburg and several area counties have little excuse for not casting a ballot. Despite a state law that cut the early-voting window by a week, Mecklenburg is offering more early-voting hours than any other county in the state – and more than six times as many as in the last off-year primary in 2010. Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell and Union counties have also increased hours.
The voter ID bill the legislature passed last year was fundamentally flawed because its entire premise was backward: We need to encourage more voting, not less. The ID provision won most of the attention, but the bill included several other requirements that make it harder for citizens in a republic to carry out their most basic right.
So the Mecklenburg elections board and director Michael Dickerson deserve credit for opening 13 early sites and making voting convenient.
If they really want to help voters, though, they should pay closer attention when candidates hide details about who’s giving them money. Observer reporters Fred Clasen-Kelly and Ames Alexander found that some candidates do not comply with the state law requiring all donors to be identified by their job title and employer. Former Mayor Patrick Cannon failed to list donors’ employers about 250 times since 2011. City Council member LaWana Mayfield omitted donors’ employers in every case in her October 2013 report. Filings like that stymie the public in knowing who backs elected officials.
Since the Observer stories, the Mecklenburg board has vowed to improve oversight. That’s good, but even so it will be difficult for voters to track donations closely.
Many candidates file on paper, not electronically, making records harder to search. And the state Board of Elections says it has a 10-year backlog of reports to audit. It is chipping away at that with technological upgrades, but remain understaffed. The legislature, in the name of transparency, must get the board the manpower it needs.
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