Politics & Policy

Progress in North Carolina

New clean-election standards and a law protecting unborn children have Democrats’ heads spinning.

Democrats are terribly upset with Republicans in North Carolina: Having won the state house, the state senate, and the governorship, along with nine of thirteen U.S. House seats in the last election, Republicans in Raleigh are acting like they run the place.

The Republicans’ most controversial piece of legislation is a new voter-identification law, which Democrats are treating as the Second Coming of Jim Crow. Such is the low bar for controversy in the early 21st century: The new law simply requires that voters present a state-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license or the similar ID that the state issues to non-drivers. Other forms of identification not subject to the same documentation and security standards — such as student IDs and work IDs — are not acceptable under the new law. It is really something to watch the Democrats treat a trip to the DMV as an unbearable burden: Under Democratic initiatives, everything from a trip to the doctor’s office to opening a business requires or will require running a bureaucratic gauntlet indistinguishable from a trip to the DMV. Such trips are therefore properly regarded as educational: There is nothing that quite so perfectly attunes one’s senses to the ineptitude and hostility of a Democrat-dominated bureaucracy as a visit to the driver’s-license counter. Little wonder the Democrats object.

The absence of state-issued identification is not a bar to voting only — it marginalizes people from much of modern life, restricting their ability to travel or access financial services. If there are really that many in North Carolina who cannot get a state-issued ID, then the solution is to help them to do so.

North Carolina also has elected to delay the automatic reinstatement of felons’ voting rights by five years and to end same-day voting registration. It should be noted that North Carolina is not permanently disfranchising felons — which would be a perfectly defensible position — but delaying the automatic reinstatement of their voting rights. Same-day registration is a favorite Democratic innovation that has lent itself to abuse — for example, in the case of paid vote-wranglers who purchase votes from the newly registered homeless with cigarettes.

North Carolina’s clean-election standards are applied across the board to Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike. But it is the Democrats who object strongly to anti-fraud measures, limitations on felons, and the like, suggesting that they have a low opinion of their voters. Perhaps that is not entirely unjustified.

North Carolina also passed new restrictions on abortion. The states have broad authority to manage their own elections and should have the same power to regulate medical procedures within their borders — most of these decisions properly belong to Raleigh, not to Washington.

And while the state was working through those polarizing issues, it also took the time to institute major tax reforms — replacing the tiered income tax with a flat tax and reducing corporate taxes, which will go lower still if revenue goals are met — and instituting a school-choice scholarship for low-income families, giving them up to $4,200 toward educational expenses at schools of their own selection. A healthier tax environment and a more flexible and effective education system are fundamental to improving a state’s economic competitiveness.

That’s a lot of progress in a relatively short period of time, which has Democrats’ heads spinning. It is very difficult for anybody who has spent much time observing the exercise of power in Sacramento or Springfield to feel much for North Carolina’s Democrats: The state’s Republicans are not shod nearly so roughly as their Democratic counterparts in the states they dominate. Challenged over the scope of his stimulus plan in 2009, President Barack Obama answered Republican critics with two words: “I won.” The U.S. House and North Carolina’s state government are full of Republicans who won, too, which is excellent news for clean elections and bad news for abortionists, and bad news for those who are on the wrong sides of those issues. 

EDITOR’s NOTE: This item has been corrected since it was first posted.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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