WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- As many as 2.5 million people voted early in North Carolina during last year's presidential elections, but one group believes that number could soon be significantly less because of a series of voting laws working their way through the General Assembly.
"We need to remember that voting is a privilege yes but it is also a right," New Hanover County Board of Elections member Geneva Reid said.
The liberal policy group Progress NC says that right is being infringed upon, but they say many in the Tar Heel State don't even know it.
A series of bills making their way through the legislature could shorten the state's early voting period from 17 days down to as few as six.
"Early voting is extremely popular," Progress Nc's Gerrick Brenner said. "People are using it. Three out of four North Carolina voters say they voted early. At this point you really have to ask yourself, 'Why are politicians in raleigh trying to make it harder for voters to vote?'"
More than 60,000 New Hanover County voters turned out early last year. Reid feels the bill could end the positive momentum they have seen in recent years.
"We think it's very important to let people know that we want to do what we can to encourage them to vote," she said. "One way that you encourage people to vote again and again is to make it doable. You don't put stumbling blocks in the way."
Progress NC says another obstacle is a bill to keep college students from being dependents on their parents' taxes if they register to vote at school instead of their home district.
"Being a full-time student, I am a dependent. I don't have enough money to go out and be my own person when I'm a college student, but I should be able to vote, because I'm still an American citizen. That just outrages me, because it's just an attack on us," UNCW student Carter Jewell said.
We tried to reach out to several area lawmakers to comment on the proposed bills. Only Rep. Rick Catlin (R-District 20) called back. He said he was unaware of the bills, but that he would be against anything that potentially limited the amount of voters at the polls.