The North Carolina Influencer Series

Here’s what NC Influencers had to say about voter ID and voting rights

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The North Carolina Influencer series

The Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun in Durham are launching a conversation between readers and important thought leaders throughout North Carolina.

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Using an online tool called Your Voice, we asked what questions readers had for NC leaders and Influencers about race relations. Then, we had readers vote on the question they wanted us to ask the Influencers. That question was: “How can North Carolina make certain everyone has an equal opportunity to vote easily yet safely so their voices are heard?”

Here is a sampling of answers from the NC Influencers:

Thomas Stith, former Chief of Staff under Gov. Pat McCrory

“Government’s role is to provide a safe and secure electoral system. Voter ID is an additional tool to ensure the integrity of the process, however voter participation is the most important part of the equation. In many elections, the turnout of eligible voters is embarrassingly low. People have to engage in the process to have a voice.”

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Thomas Stith

Bob Page, CEO Replacements, Ltd.

“A federal solution would be to recognize that voting is so important to our democracy and citizen-led government that it merits a national holiday dedicated only to exercising this right. In North Carolina, we should strive to expand people’s right to vote, not restrict it. Too aggressive purging of voter rolls and prior restrictions on the use of student ID tell us a lot about how partisan lawmakers view voting and certain kinds of voters.”

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Bob Page

Cyndee Patterson, President, The Lee Institute

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I have not seen any compelling statistics that suggest we have a voting problem in North Carolina, nor for that matter across the country. Voting is the most important action we can take as citizens of North Carolina and the United States. We should do all we can to facilitate make voting, easy, convenient for people from all socio-economic groups.”

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Cyndee Patterson

Patricia Timmons-Goodson, Justice (Ret.) N.C. Supreme Court; Vice Chair U.S. Civil Rights Commission

“(The) Voter ID requirement was a solution in search of a problem.”

Michael Marsicano, CEO Foundation For The Carolinas

“If I’m not mistaken other places are experimenting with cell phone voting. Could this turn out to be an answer?

Art Pope, CEO, Variety Wholesalers; Chairman, John William Pope Foundation

“North Carolina is already one of the most generous states in the nation when it comes to voting opportunities. We offer non-excuses absentee voting by both mail and early-voting sites. It is easier to cast a ballot in North Carolina than in New York, which has no early voting. During the 2016 elections, North Carolina had a greater percentage of eligible voters registering and actually voting than the majority of the states, including better than New York. Just as North Carolina voters enjoy many opportunities to cast their ballots, they also have the right to insist that their legal votes are not canceled by illegal votes or election tampering. That is why measures to deter impersonation, one person voting multiple times and residency fraud; to protect the integrity of ballots and vote-recording systems; and, to enforce our election laws in general, are also important.”

Jim Martin, NC governor 1985-1993

“Easier access to obtaining a photo ID should be provided by the State, so everybody could have one if they want to vote. Every state agency, and especially the elections office, should be empowered to issue a photo ID as a basic civil right.”

Richard Sneed, Principal Chief, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

“The current system already affords equal opportunity for everyone to vote.”

Mike Rizer, Executive Vice President and Head of Community Relations at Wells Fargo

“Overturn unnecessary suppression laws and eliminate gerrymandering. There has been very little evidence of voter fraud, so there is no reason for all of the barriers that have been created.”

Ashley Christensen, Chef, restaurateur, food activist, philanthropist

“Work to fix gerrymandering issues by rewriting the district maps; make voting as accessible as possible by not passing the amendment that would require voter identification in November.”

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Ashley Christensen

Bob Morgan, Charlotte Chamber CEO

“Make the identity check as simple as possible.”

Richard Vinroot, law partner, Charlotte mayor 1991-1995

“I really don’t understand this question. We all have easy access to the polls now, and rather than trying to “politicize “whether it’s too difficult, or easy enough, as both political parties do, we need to move on to something more serious - such as electing better people to serve, from the president on down.”

Kit Cramer, CEO Asheville Area Chamber

“Extend voting hours and days. Provide workarounds for ID issues. Enhance voter education and civics curriculum in schools to develop an appreciation for the right to vote.”

Pat McCrory, NC governor 2013-2017

“Photo ID, early voting, and longer hours during day to vote at precincts.”

Karen Rindge, Executive Director, WakeUP Wake County

“Do not require voter IDs. Increase the number of days for early voting, and ensure sites are accessible by transit.”

Dr. Laura Gerald, President, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

“There is little to indicate that the current system that does not require voter ID is unsafe. Since civic participation is so important in a democracy, and frankly also so important to your health, North Carolina should err on the side of providing greater opportunity to vote, not less.”

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Dr. Laura Gerald

Bev Perdue, NC governor 2009-2013

“Voting is the most important responsibility we have as citizens. I have believed for years our voting process and rules should be about encouraging folks to vote. So, open up the process. Let’s encourage expanded voting hours and days. Let’s have poll watchers and drivers and mobile voting.”

Vivian Howard, Chef, author, TV host, advocate for Eastern NC

“Automatically registering every person to vote and expanding early voting are two things I think might help.”

Bree Newsome, activist

“North Carolina can make certain everyone has equal opportunity to vote easily yet safely by increasing access to polling locations and opportunities to register as a voter. In recent years, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have sought to reduce voter participation by ending early voting, shutting down polling locations, and taking other measures that create long lines at the polls and other difficulties for working people, students and minority communities in particular.”

Liz Chen, Co-Founder of MyHealthEd

“I recommend increasing the number of early voting sites and extending the hours that early voting sites are open so that North Carolinians have more opportunities to vote when they are able to fit it into their busy schedules. Not everyone is able to take off time from work, find childcare, or find convenient transportation to voting sites on Election Day. While canvassing for the 2016 presidential election, many of the North Carolinians that I talked to were not aware of the early voting options in Durham County, so I think that we need to do a much better job advertising the early voting options.”

Virginia Hardy, ECU Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs

“There should be ample early voting sites and hours, including Saturday and Sunday, especially in depressed and poor neighborhoods. More information and opportunities related provisional and absentee ballots should be made available for voters.”

Bishop Claude Alexander Jr. , Senior Pastor, The Park Church

“Continue early voting, expand early voting sites, expand secure online voter registration, and allow for portable voter registration that allows a person’s registration to remain active whenever they move within that state. They would be able to update their information up unto the day that they go to vote.”

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Bishop Claude Alexander Jr.

Mark Jewell, President North Carolina Association of Educators

“Your publications have written extensively about recent audits that show North Carolina’s elections are sound and virtually fraud-free. Voting is a constitutional right. Citizens should not have to jump through hoops to vote. Where our state and country should be focusing more attention is on Russian hacking and other similar interference, not on putting barriers up for our citizens to exercise their right to vote.”

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Mark Jewell

Joan Zimmerman, CEO Southern Shows Inc.

“Maybe I’m missing something here. Right now, access to the voting poles is easier than it has ever been. There are organized groups who will take handicapped to the poles; the ability to vote in advance, in absentia. Only thing I can think of would be to have mobile voting stations (vans) that would go into more rural areas, where poles might be further apart; or find a cyber-proof system that allows valid on-line voting.”

Catherine Lawson, Attorney, started the #meAt14 campaign

“North Carolina already has numerous ways that people can vote: “no excuse” vote by mail, extensive early voting locations and times, and Election Day voting. If there’s a problem with your registration when you arrive, you can cast a provisional ballot. Although there may be a need for greater awareness around these avenues, every North Carolinian who wants to vote has multiple ways to do so. One change that could make voting even easier would be to provide prepaid postage for absentee voters.”

Hugh McColl, CEO of Bank of America, 1983-2001

“Retain the system that has worked for a century.”

Patrick Woodie, CEO NC Rural Center

“Across the country, many states are exploring initiatives to make voter registration less cumbersome and more accessible for eligible voters. That means creating an automatic registration process where voters have to opt out of their registration as opposed to actively opting in. In some places, registration happens as a default at the time a driver’s license is issued. To not be registered, the burden is on the applicant to opt out.

“It is still early, but there is some indication that such efforts are having a positive effect on voter turnout, with more eligible voters in some states showing up to vote on Election Day. North Carolina should explore similar efforts to make it easier for eligible voters to register and participate in our electoral process.”

Mike Easley, NC governor 2001-2009

“Fair voting requires all citizens are treated with dignity and respect and have early voting, reasonable hours and locations to vote. Further, the military and other citizens need reasonable and unencumbered absentee voting opportunities. In a democracy voting should be easy.”

How to participate

Your Voice is an ongoing conversation between readers, the 60 NC Influencers, and policy makers in our state. From now and until Election Day we’re asking readers what matters most to them about a particular policy issue. After readers weigh in online each week, we’ll hold a Your Voice vote to see which reader’s response resonates most. Then, we’ll put that question to the NC Influencers. To participate just click on the Your Voice link embedded in every Influencer series story.

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