Early Voting, Lower Taxes And More; Sorting Out The Week At The NC Legislature
This year’s legislative session is winding down at the statehouse, but only after a flurry of activity this week that could change the way we vote, pay taxes, and more.
WFDD’s Sean Bueter wanted to sort out some of the biggest stories of the week, and got in touch with WUNC statehouse reporter Jeff Tiberii for help.
Tiberii started by talking about the new early voting bill announced this week, which would make voting times more uniform and eliminate Saturday voting while replacing it with another day.
On the context for changing early voting during an election year:
Of course, the question is: "why would they do this?" And what we heard from Republican lawmakers on Thursday morning was that this is about uniformity. This is about streamlining the early voting process.
The subtext for this – the writing on the wall – is that the last Saturday is a fairly popular day. It's moderately popular overall with early voters, and it is one of the most popular early voting days for African-American voters. And African-American voters tend to vote for the Democratic Party, by and large. You know, 80-85 percent of registered black voters tend to vote for the party that isn't in power around here at the legislature. So as we've seen before some of the election tweaks are really based along party lines. Oftentimes that coincides with the way minorities will vote. And if I had to make a guess – and it is early – this may very well spark some legal action at some point down the line.
On the return of voter ID at the polls, this time as a constitutional amendment:
This constitutional amendment is being sent forward because lawmakers largely believe that if the people have spoken on this, that if North Carolina voters say "yeah, we approve of photo identification at the polls," then down the road, the legal challenge, which they expect to happen, will be a little bit stronger.
On the reason for a different constitutional amendment – a cap on personal income tax rates:
The brief context here is that many states do have a constitutional limit on the personal income tax rate. We actually do have one here in North Carolina right now: it's 10 percent. But what this constitutional amendment would do is limit future legislatures from expanding the personal income tax rate to six or 6.25 or 6.5 [percent]. There are obviously arguments for and against this, but I do think it has legs. I don't think it's a foregone conclusion, but it will be interesting.
I would just note that one of the reasons we are having these conversations about constitutional amendments is because Republicans are expecting to not have a great year at the ballot box. And they are hoping, they are strategizing, that some of these constitutional amendments may tick up turnout either across the state or in certain districts in certain kinds of areas, primarily suburban areas where Republicans are really focused on doing well, or doing well enough to retain their supermajorities.
(Ed.: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)