Each post in SCSJ’s “Votes Not Counted” series tells the story of a person qualified to vote before the passage of North Carolina’s Monster Voter Suppression Law, whose ballot was unjustly denied this year. Below is Bryan’s story. If you know another eligible voter whose vote has been denied, please email email@example.com.
Bryan McGowan is a North Carolina resident and a distinguished combat veteran. Bryan served 22 years with the United States Marine Corps, was deployed four times to both Afghanistan and Iraq, and is disabled as a result of his military service. Bryan wanted to exercise his right to vote during North Carolina’s early voting period but was denied the opportunity to do so. He was denied the right to vote because of the elimination of same day registration in the new voting law (H.B. 589), which formerly allowed voters to register and vote at the same time during the early voting period.
Bryan was stationed at Camp LeJeune, near Jacksonville, NC, from 2005 until 2010. He used same day registration to register and vote at the same time in the 2008 presidential election. In 2010, his military commitments required him to relocate to Georgia, from where he was again deployed once again. He finished his twenty two years in the United States Marine Corps in the spring of 2014. After retiring from the military,
Bryan moved to the Western North Carolina mountains in July 2014. On the first day of early voting, (October 23rd), Bryan went to an early voting site and advised polling officials of his new address in North Carolina, fully expecting to vote that day. Bryan did not know that changes to same day registration were made and, relying on the same day registration option, he expected to register and vote in 2014 as he had in 2008.
However, and despite his decades of military service to the United States and North Carolina, Bryan was prevented from voting this year. The poll worker told Bryan, “it’s the law,” and that he could not vote in this election without same day registration.
After losing his right to vote in this election, Bryan felt betrayed by his country—the country he fought for. He simply wanted to exercise his constitutional right. “All I want to do is cast my vote.” Bryan is discouraged that changes to North Carolina’s election laws are preventing people from voting.
Bryan is not alone in his story of disenfranchisement. He believes this change to the voting law is “voter suppression” and he wishes to share his story so others understand the real impact of the new election laws. He simply wants to vote and Bryan deserves the opportunity to do so.