After weeks of delays and detours -- and attempts by some to derail the legislation with false alarms about "voter fraud" - the North Carolina legislature yesterday finally OK'd a major election reform: "same day" voter registration at early voting sites across the state.

The NC Senate voted 34-15 to endorse a House bill, which was closely watched by election reform advocates across the country. The AP describes the reform:

If Democratic Gov. Mike Easley signs the bill into law, North Carolina would join seven other states to allow people to register and cast a ballot immediately before an election or on Election Day.

North Carolina law currently ends voter registration 25 days before an election. But the bill would allow residents to go to one-stop voting sites, where they already can vote early, and register and then vote right away in the final 2 1/2 weeks before an election. There is at least one early-voting site in every county.

Full Election Day Registration --which allows registering and voting through the big voting day -- has boosted voter turnout by 10-12% in the six states that have it.

Even though the NC bill doesn't allow registration through Election Day, it will have a big impact. There are some 200 early voting sites in the state, and a growing number of voters are using them: in 2004, over 400,000 North Carolinians -- nearly 8% of the state's registered voters -- used early voting sites.

The advocacy group Demos projects an over 5% increase in voter turnout in North Carolina.

If the bill clears the governor's desk and a Department of Justice review, it could be rolled out in time for municipal elections this fall.