Clear up those issues

Published 5:42 pm Thursday, November 12, 2015


In less than a month, the filing period for the 2016 elections in North Carolina — from presidential to school board — begins.

Because North Carolina moved its primaries from May to March in 2016, the filing period will take place from Dec. 1 to Dec. 21. That gives local boards of elections just a few weeks to catch their breath between Election Day and the first day of the filing period.

With the new filing period, it’s possible area residents will be receiving candidates’ campaign literature along with Christmas cards, Hannukkah cards or Kwanzaa cards. Just a few days before Christmas, we will know who is running for office in the Old North State.

Why the change? Well, it seems the leaders in the N.C. House and N.C. Senate agreed to move all primaries in the state to March 15 to cut election-related costs and to make North Carolina more relevant in the presidential nominating process. Holding separate primaries — one for presidential nominations and the other for gubernatorial and other contests — would have been too costly, those leaders said. They contend a second primary would cost from $5 million to $10 million.

It’s likely most voters will have no problems with the earlier primaries and filing period.

But 2016 is when North Carolina’s new voter ID laws and other voting-related changes are scheduled to take place. Some of those changes, enacted by the N.C. General Assembly in recent years, are being challenged in the courts. Rulings by those courts could result in confused voters.

Perhaps the most significant change is the requirement that voters show an approved form (government issued) of identification. Federal lawsuits regarding the state’s voter ID laws remain active. Late last month, a federal judge refused to dismiss a challenge to those voter ID laws. Earlier this week, the N.C. NAACP and others contended in new court filings that the state’s photo ID requirements is still discriminatory despite a change enacted this past summer that eases restrictions.

The State Board of Elections and local boards of elections are awaiting outcomes in those lawsuits and filings. In addition to the voter ID requirements, those boards are waiting to see if the law’s prohibitions against out-of-precinct provisional voting and same-day voter registration (registering to vote and voting the same day) will stand court challenges.

It’s difficult for those boards to educate voters on changes related to voting when it’s unclear if those changes will be upheld by the courts or struck down. That uncertainty has voters confused.

North Carolina does not need confused voters. It needs educated voters. Hopefully, by the time voters go to the polls for the March primaries, the questions about voter ID, same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional voting will have been answered. North Carolina voters deserve to have those issues settled so they can concentrate on voting for the candidates they believe will best serve them.