GOP N.C. House Leader Says Voting Is among ‘Things You Just Shouldn’t Do on Sundays’

The idea that the government should decide what North Carolinians should and shouldn’t do on Sundays is not exactly new — it has been illegal for decades to buy drinks in restaurants and bars during the hours churches hold services on Sundays

GOP N.C. House Leader Edgar Starnes
Just four months after Florida’s experiment in Jim Crow style voter suppression failed — the restrictive new laws actually drove up turnout rather than depressing it, which helped deliver the state to Pres. Obama in a 0.88 percentage point squeaker — North Carolina Republicans who now control all branches of government have proposed a slate of similar laws, apparently without any reservations that their attempts to disenfranchise minority voters might have the same result in the tenth largest state that they had in the fourth largest.

Obama won North Carolina in 2008 with just 14,000 votes. He lost the state in 2012 by 92,000 votes.

The GOP gained control of both houses of the N.C. legislature in 2010 for the first time since the 1870s. In 2012, the party achieved veto-proof majorities, which is all but irrelevant since the newly elected governor, Pat McCrory, the former crypto-moderate mayor of Charlotte, is also a Republican.

In a classic example of Big Government Republican thinking, when asked to defend ending Sunday voting, N.C. GOP House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes explained that there were “some things you just shouldn’t do on Sundays.”

Leader Starnes appears to be referring to Exodus 35:2, which establishes the death penalty for working on Sunday. Presumably then, Starnes is concerned about poll workers, who, if they lived in the sort of American theocracy envisioned by Starnes and his fellow teavangelicals imagine, would be risking death and eternal damnation just so that black people could vote after church.

Starnes’ push for a law to prevent voting on Sunday on biblical grounds is not the North Carolina government’s first foray into regulating what activities are deemed inappropriate for Sundays. While going to NASCAR races, fishing, hunting and mowing the lawn on Sundays are not regulated by the government in North Carolina, drinking is. Like a lot of states, including New York, for example, North Carolina prohibits the sale of alcohol in stores on Sundays, but it also prohibits selling drinks in bars and restaurants on Sundays before 1 p.m. — presumably to prevent parishioners from showing up drunk at church. (Hint: If you’re out for Sunday brunch in North Carolina, ask for the bloody mary soup.)

If Starnes’ rationale for prohibiting Sunday voting prevails, government regulation of sabbath activities could become a new item on the Big Government Republican agenda, along with government-enforced pregnancies and vaginal probes and the push to to stand up a giant new law-enforcement bureaucracy capable of rounding up 12 million “illegals” and busing them back to Mexico.

Precise numbers of people who voted on Sundays in North Carolina are not readily available, but early voting in general is very popular. According to the Durham Herald Sun, approximately 2.76 million people voted early in 2012. Among them, 47.4 percent were Democrats and 31.6 percent were Republicans.

The majority of early voters, 67 percent, were white, while 27.4 percent were black, a fact that appears to reflect the state’s demographics — 65 percent are non-Hispanic whites; 21 percent are African-Americans — rather than sociological drivers like Sunday voting “souls to the polls” events in black churches that Republicans seem to be trying to disrupt.

Finally and perhaps fittingly, the western N.C. House district that Leader Starnes represents includes the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metro area, with a population of 365,000, which just last week was ranked among the 11 worst places to live in the country in the Gallup-Health Well-Being Index.

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