On Monday, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory signed into law a package of restrictive voting and election reforms that will disfranchise poor, elderly, and minority voters, while giving big money greater influence in judicial campaigns. Governor McCrory is not only on the wrong side of history, but on the wrong side of public opinion as well.
Among other effects, the law reduces the number of early voting days by one week, requires all voters to show government-issued identification, eliminates same-day voter registration, and repeals the “Voter Owned Elections” program, which allowed public funding of judicial campaigns to reduce the influence of special interests and big-money contributors, who might have business before the court.
A Public Policy Polling survey conducted over the weekend found that just 39 percent of all registered voters in North Carolina support these changes. Importantly, the law finds majority support only among self-identified conservatives. Moderates oppose the law by a 50-point margin, 70 percent to 20 percent.
An election night survey by Democracy Corps and Public Campaign Action Fund survey found significant opposition to the kind of changes just enacted in North Carolina:
- Early voting: Among all voters in 2012, two thirds (67 percent) supported a plan to extend early voting to all voters. This included 58 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of independents. Conservative Republicans were the only group for whom this was not a majority position.
- Campaign money: By a 41 point margin (56 percent to 15 percent), voters supported “a plan to replace the current campaign finance system of large private contributions with one that relies on small contributions and limited public funds.”
- Expanding voting: By a 53 point margin (67 percent to 14 percent), voters supported “a plan to cut red tape from the voting process to make sure all eligible voters can vote.”
From a political perspective, we cannot help but wonder what this means for the Republican Party’s reputation among moderates, both in North Carolina and nationally. As our recent Democracy Corps work has found, extreme and regressive politics have become constitutive to the Republican brand — which alienates moderate voters. So while the right-wing Republican base might enthusiastically support policies that would disfranchise millions, restrict women’s health choices, and cut taxes for millionaires and food stamps for the working poor, these are minority positions among all voters.
In short, these kinds of policies jeopardize the GOP’s ability to continue as a national party. While Republicans may continue to win elections in the most conservative congressional districts, it will be difficult for Republican presidential candidates to make the kind of broad appeal required to win national office.