RALEIGH, NC -- State senators debated into the evening Wednesday, trying to hammer out details to the "Voter Information Verification Act." Originally the bill focused strictly on voter identification requirements, but over the past few days grew into a sweeping change to state election law.
"This is not voter reform. This is voter suppression," said Sen. Joel Ford, Democrat from Mecklenburg County.
"It's un-American. It does a disservice to North Carolinians," said Ford.
The bill now reduces early voting from 17 days down to 10. It gets rid of straight-ticket voting. Pre-registration of 16 and 17 years old in high school students, popular in many schools, is eliminated. The bill also prevents precincts from extending their hours because of long lines.
Supporters of the bill say it will update, strengthen and standardize the voting system in North Carolina.
"We believe it will go a long way in rebuilding confidence in our system," said Sen. Bob Rucho, Republican of Mecklenburg County, and sponsor the bill.
Critics say the measure is a thinly-veiled attempt to lower voter turnout among groups that favor the Democratic Party.
"African-Americans disproportionately vote the first seven days of early voting, and those the days you're wanting to cut out," said Sen. Josh Stein, of Wake County.
Stein succeeded in adding an amendment to the bill that would maintain the same number early voting hours, despite fewer days.