Do you remember “hanging-chads?” Those were the tiny little punch-out holes on Florida ballots that gave George Bush the presidency in 2001 and made Florida the land of bad elections. As a direct result of that fiasco, Congress passed the 'Help America Vote Act or HAVA, which gave money to the states to improve their election systems. Over $4 million of that money is still in N.C. banks ready to be spent on the 2012 election process.
In cash-strapped counties across the state, Election Boards are trying to find the money to conduct fair and efficient elections come November. That $4 million would go a long way to expand early voting, to ease access for the disabled, and ensure that everybody who wants to vote can vote. It would also expand computerized voter registration and record systems, and would greatly reduce the possibility of voter fraud.
But, there is a problem. The Republican Legislature is blocking the release of this money to the counties and state boards of elections. For the $4 million to be released, the legislature must provide about $660,000 to the state election boards. And, if they don't, the money goes back to Washington. It is clear to many knowledgeable observers that the Republican Legislature has purposely under-funded the State Board of Elections to prevent the release of the four millionplus dollars.
A letter signed by 85 members of local boards of elections, including 40 Republicans, was just sent to the Legislature pleading for the release of the $4 million. Many are concerned that chaos will ensue in the November General election unless those funds are released.
Here is what I don't understand: This is the same Republican Legislature that has just passed a $500 million tax RELIEF bill for corporations. So, apparently it is easy to find $500 million for corporations but $660,000 to insure a fair vote is out of the question.
Talk to any Republican legislator about voting and he will cite the potential for rampant voter fraud. Therefore, they argue, there stands a crying need for Voter ID and all sorts of restrictions on voters. Yet, the money to help solve this alleged problem is sitting in a North Carolina Bank earning .01% interest. And, if the Legislature has its way, it will stay there.
It appears the Republicans have taken voter suppression to a new level.
Louis Vitale — Franklin, N.C.