Republicans have taken power in the North Carolina legislature for the first time in a century. Judging by the bills they have filed recently in Raleigh, they mean to keep it.
April 17, 2013

Last fall, voters across North Carolina made their choices at the ballot box. In the next general election we will see whether they still like those they chose.

I recently read a post from state Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover. He explains why he and Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, introduced a bill taking away our choice to vote a straight ticket. Republicans like more choice in theory. Because freedom. But they insist on taking away this choice. Plus a few others.

See, straight-ticket voting indicates "voter laziness," says Goolsby. Meaning, 56 percent of North Carolina's straight-ticket voters choose the other party, and that's just wrong, as he sees it.

Or "You're doing it all wrong, son," as Foghorn Leghorn might see it. "Now a smart, I say, a smart voter...."

Goolsby and colleagues think busy working people should have to dig through thick stack of newspapers before voting. Or use their smart phones and laptops to bore down through the Internet and do their homework first. But mainly, by eliminating straight-ticket voting Goolsby is hoping -- insisting -- that voters try his brand.

A former colleague tells this story. He and his wife were out one night and ended up at some fancy brew pub with a beer list as long as your arm.

The waitress came over. Larry ordered a Budweiser.

His wife rolled her eyes and said, "That's what you always get!"

She held up the beer list and said, "You should try something different."

"I know what I like," said Larry.

His wife ordered jamocha almond fudge pale ale or something.

When the beers arrived, she took one sip and scrunched up her face. She pushed the beer across the table and asked if Larry would drink it so she could order something else.

Larry smiled quietly, pulled his Bud a little closer and said again, “I know what I like.”

Larry also knows what he doesn't like.

Larrys from both major North Carolina parties like voting a straight ticket. It's not for everyone, but it's what a lot of voters prefer. But since the senators don't like how the straight-ticket math falls out, they insist on making it harder for every Larry to choose the brand he prefers.

But like your father (and Foghorn), these legislators believe they know better. In fact, Republicans in Raleigh are going out of their way to narrow voters' choices. Like a stern father, they are not interested in helping you vote the way you want. These efforts are aimed at forcing more people to vote the way the GOP wants.

Daddy wants to make it harder for you to register to vote, and for people already registered, harder to get a ballot when they arrive to vote.

Daddy wants to make it less convenient to vote. Fifty-six percent of NC voters voted early in 2012. So Daddy wants a week's fewer early voting days and a limit of one early voting location per county.

Daddy wants a tax penalty on the parents of in-state students who dare exercise the right the U.S. Supreme Court said students have to register and vote where they attend college.

And should Larry make it into the voting booth, Daddy insists that he work down through a list as long as your arm just so he can choose the brand he knew he wanted when he walked in the door.

Making voting easier for North Carolinians is the last thing on our Republican legislators' minds. And at the next general election, when voters find they can no longer get away from work to vote when polls are open or, if they do, find that the early voting location they've used for years is gone when they get there, voters will find out just what these legislators had in mind.

And when Democrats and Republicans, Libertarians and independents stand in long lines, or find that they have to leave the polls without voting because the lines are too long and voting machines too few, or at the end of those long lines they are turned away because they do not have the right documents when asked to show their papers, expect to see a lot of scrunched-up faces on North Carolinians who wish they had made different choices in November 2012.

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