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(This posting is a guest posting from Chelsea Brossard, research associate at the Early Voting Information Center.)

Two proposed bills in the North Carolina legislature. Senate Bill 428 seeks to shorten the early voting period from two weeks to one week, and House Bill 451 aims to outlaw voting on Sundays.[1]

Our analysis demonstrates the impact these changes would have on the electorate. We examined early voting data from 2008, 2010, and 2012. Our results show that 55.61% of the electorate voted early in 2008, compared with 33.67% of the electorate in 2010 and 58.98% of the electorate in 2012. Of those that voted early in 2008, 54.96% voted in first week of early voting, including the second to last Sunday. In 2010, 38.61% of the early voting electorate voted during this period, and 54.42% of early voters voted during this period in 2012.

Year % of electorate that voted early % early voters affected by proposed changes (as a percentage of early voters) % early voters affected by proposed changes (as a percentage of the total electorate)
2008 55.61% 54.96% 26.04%
2010 33.67% 38.61% 13.00%
2012 58.98% 54.42% 30.77%

These numbers show that a significant portion of the electorate would be negatively affected by the proposed changes, and would be forced to find other times to vote should these bills pass.

Even though 2010 shows a smaller portion of the electorate voting early, early voting has increased over the last decade. Information from the North Carolina Board of Elections web page shows that 13.04% of the electorate voted early in 2000, compared to 58.98% of the electorate in 2012.

More disturbing, there are racial differences in the use of these methods to curb opportunities for early voting. Despite surprising racial disparities in 2010 we have not yet fully investigated, 2008 and 2012 both showed African American voters significantly more likely to vote early than whites. 2010, a lower profile election with less stimulus, showed a more traditional pattern of whites being more likely to vote early. This shows that the proposed changes would result in racial disparities in presidential election years and would affect a large portion of the electorate. What’s more, even more voters vote in the last Sunday before the election, but North Carolina already does not open the polls on this day.

Early voting in 2008 Untitled3 Untitled2

[1] Senate Bill 428 also proposes an elimination of same-day voter registration. For our purposes, we will not discuss the effects this would have on the electorate.