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More groups oppose bills to reduce NC early voting

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

More liberal-learning groups are urging North Carolina's Republican legislature to back off legislation that would reduce early voting and end same-day registration during the early voting period.

Progress North Carolina led a news conference Monday at the Legislative Building to oppose bills last week to reduce 2½ weeks of in-person early voting by one week. One of the bills would bar Sunday voting.

Progress North Carolina cited a poll to back its position and pointed to long voting lines in 2012 in Florida after that state cut back early voting, including the Sunday before Election Day when many churches mobilized to go vote.

More than 56 percent of the 4.5 million votes cast in North Carolina's November election occurred at early voting sites.

"Why do they want to force longer lines at the polls?" asked Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC. "Why do they want to make it harder for voters to vote? Early voting should not be a partisan issue."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the bill reducing early voting from 14 to eight days into law, now says it should be returned to 14 days and the number of early-voting sites increased.

"My life is full and voting on a workday is challenging," Candice Davies of Cary, an unaffiliated voter and teacher, said at the news conference. "It's really unfathomable to me why our current lawmakers are trying to restrict our ability to vote and try to make it harder instead of easier."

Civil rights advocates spoke out publicly Friday to oppose the bills, which haven't yet been scheduled for debate.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, told the News & Record of Greensboro in an interview (http://bit.ly/10pgvmf) published Sunday the cost of elections has gone up "substantially" as a result of a long early voting period, while Sunday "traditionally has not been a politicized time frame." Early voting began in 2000, while same-day registration was approved in 2007.

"These are voting rules, regulations, laws that were put in place in very recent years," Berger said. "And I think it is totally appropriate for us to take a closer look."

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