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NC Groups Praise New Voting-Rights Bill

A sweeping resolution in the U.S. House would expand access to the polls and limit the influence of money in politics. (North Carolina Council of Churches)
A sweeping resolution in the U.S. House would expand access to the polls and limit the influence of money in politics. (North Carolina Council of Churches)
January 30, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. - The U.S. House Judiciary Committee heard testimony Tuesday on the "For the People Act," which would make it easier for many people to vote by removing a number of state-level restrictions.

Leigh Chapman, director of the voting-rights program at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called House Resolution 1 a true democracy-reform bill.

"The bill would make Election Day a holiday (and) create nationwide automatic voter registration, which could actually get 50 million more voters on the rolls," she said. "It would also have provisions restoring the right to vote for people with felony convictions, and that would get 6.1 million more voters on the rolls."

In addition, the bill attempts to limit the dominance of big money in politics by strengthening disclosure requirements, and clearly defines requirements on how voters prove their identity or eligibility to vote. HR 1 also would set a national standard for two weeks of early voting, as well as weekend and evening voting.

Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, said HR 1 would strengthen voters' confidence in the elections process.

"Everything that I am aware of in this proposal is going to be things that help restore faith in government, help to make things more transparent, provide rules for enhancing ethics," he said.

Several North Carolina voting laws have been challenged in the past decade. In 2016, a federal court of appeals ruled that a 2013 state law "targeted African-Americans with surgical precision" when it cut early voting by a week and ended same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting.

Chapman said she thinks HR 1 is a step in the right direction.

"Opponents of democracy have really worked to silence the voices of Americans by voter-registration restrictions, strict voter-ID laws and purges of the voter rolls," she said.

HR 1 is expected to pass the House easily but may not get a vote in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he sees it as a threat to Republicans, even calling it the "Democrat Politician Protection Act."

Details of HR 1 are online at congress.gov.

Reporting by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the Park Foundation.

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - NC