N.C. voters don’t know much about new state election law

September 17, 2013
Gov. Pat McCrory signed the election reform law in July (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed the election reform law in July (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Update: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified a provision of the election law. The provision ends straight-ticket voting, not split-ticket voting.

Only about a quarter of North Carolina voters say they’ve heard a lot about a sweeping bill that alters state elections law, according to a new survey, potentially sewing the seeds for confusion at the polls when the new rules are implemented over the next several years.

A survey conducted by High Point University shows just 27 percent of North Carolinians have heard a lot about the election law, which Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed over Democratic objections earlier this year. Another 41 percent say they’ve heard a little about the new law, while 31 percent say they’ve heard not much at all about the changes.

Forty-one percent of Democrats had heard a lot about the new election reform law, suggesting Democrats are making early progress in their efforts to get the word out. More than six in 10 respondents who said they disapproved of the bill also disapproved of McCrory’s job performance, the poll shows.

Voters are broadly supportive of a provision that would require they show identification at the polls; nearly three-quarters, 72 percent, said they supported the voter I.D. provision, while just 26 percent disapproved.

That tracks with national sentiment that broadly favors voter I.D. legislation. About three quarters, 74 percent, of respondents surveyed in a July Washington Post poll said voters should be required to show identification at the polls. Opponents of voter I.D. laws say the requirements disproportionately burden minorities, but two-thirds of non-white voters say they agree with the requirements.

But solid majorities disapproved of provisions that would shorten the number of days on which early voting can take place and that would end same-day voter registration. Fifty-five percent said they disapprove of the cut in early voting days, while 56 percent said they disapproved of an end to same-day registration; just 40 percent approved of both provisions.

North Carolinians are evenly split on an increase in the cap on individual donations, from $4,000 to $5,000. Forty-six percent said they approved of the contribution limit hike, while 42 percent said they disapproved. And 45 percent said they approve of an end to straight-ticket voting, while 47 percent disapproved; straight-ticket voting is disproportionately used by African American voters, and Democratic opponents of the bill said an end to the practice will mean significant dropoff in down-ballot participation in state, county and city races.

The High Point University Survey Research Center poll, conducted September 8-12, surveyed 408 North Carolina adults, using both landlines and cell phones. The poll carried a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The poll also found voters are dissatisfied with both McCrory and President Obama. The Republican governor and Democratic president have job approval ratings of just 39 percent, dismal marks in a swing state.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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Reid Wilson | September 17, 2013