Remember the six hour lines Florida voters faced in order to case a ballot last November? The ones that led to at least 200,000 voters giving up and going home without casting a ballot, according to one study? Those lines did not happen by accident. They happened because Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a law that nearly cut in half the number of early voting days in his state, as part of his broader efforts to make it harder to vote in Florida.
Scott faced such a severe backlash from his efforts to suppress the vote that even he won’t admit that he supported the anti-voter bills he signed into law. Nevertheless, even after the long lines and the backlash, a top North Carolina Republican wants to bring Scott’s vision to North Carolina. A bill introduced last week by North Carolina’s Republican House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes would “shorten the length of time for early voting, prohibit voting on Sunday, abolish same-day registration at early voting sites, and end straight-ticket voting.”
It’s not difficult to understand why Republicans are so keen on limiting early voting and making it harder to register. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit explained in a decision striking down the Ohio GOP’s new limits on early voting, “early voters have disproportionately lower incomes and less education than election day voters” — lower income voters tend to favor Democrats over Republicans — and without early voting “thousands of voters who would have voted . . . will not be able to exercise their right to cast a vote in person.” Indeed, several Florida Republicans openly admitted that Rick Scott’s limits on early voting were enacted because “the increase of turnout and the turnout operations that the Democrats were doing in early voting . . . sent a chill down our spines.”
Prohibiting early voting on Sunday is a direct attack on African-American turnout, as many black churches lead turnout drives on the Sunday before Election Day. Indeed, the Palm Beach Post quoted one GOP consultant in Florida admitting that “the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of [GOP lawmakers’] targets only because that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves.” According to one poll, 96 percent of black voters supported President Obama.