Sen. Josh Stein Debates NC Voting Restrictions

Sen. Josh Stein, Democrat from Wake County, is considered a rising star in the Democratic party. His debate with Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) on the legality, fairness, and the necessity of voting restrictions in North Carolina spanned the final three days of the Senate's 2013 session, culminating in the passage of the most restrictive voting law in the United States, HB 589, which awaits a signature by Gov. Pat McCrory (R). McCrory has said he has not read the legislation but intends to sign it.

Voting rights advocates subsequently delivered copies of the law to the Governor's office. In his defense, the law was crafted hurriedly at the very end of the legislative session. It is speculated that Senate Republicans, who are in general more aggressive about restricting access to the polls than NC House Republicans, were waiting until the Supreme Court's decision on the Voting Rights Act, which they rightly assumed would be favorable to the Republican party.

HB 589 was originally a House Bill (thus the HB) that dealt only with government-issued photo identification as a requirement for all in-person voters. Republicans in the NC Senate added 43 pages to the original bill, including 20 new regulations that primarily impact young people, people of color, the working class, and the poor, and also impacting the elderly. Sen. Stein goes into detail as to why Democrats disapprove of voting restrictions in general, and, these restrictions in particular (young people and people of color, for instance, are Democratic-leaning constituencies). But Stein also makes the argument that anyone who believes in self-governance for the People should support free and open elections that do not create barriers for citizens who wish to participate, regardless of race, age, economic status, or party affiliation.

During debate in the House, which took place a few hours after this video was shot, and, a few hours before the end of the House's 2013 session, only one Republican rose to debate the bill. Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) granted us an interview after the vote, even though it was well passed midnight (video coming soon). In general, he felt that the characterizations of the legislation being made by Democrats were unfair. He pointed out that House Democrats had complained about a ban on Sunday voting, when in fact this had been left out of the bill. 

This interview between Jon Camp of ABC-11 was filmed with permission during a recess that preceded the NC Senate's debate of HB 589: 

The video below shows a portion of the exchange between Sen. Stein and Sen. Rucho July 23 at the Rules Committee meeting  during which the revamped HB 589 was unveiled.  The video at the top of this vlog was shot on the North Carolina Senate floor on July 25, the day on which the bill, as amended by the Senate, passed its third reading (an affirmative vote for the third time) and was sent to the House for concurrence (see our vlog on the house debate and vote to concur on a party-line vote).

Get to know Sen. Rucho, talking mostly about another topic, tax reform:

We will soon post Sen. Rucho's remarks during the Senate debate on HB 589.

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