Nearly eight months ago, I wrote about a series of coordinated, pernicious attacks on voting rights in North Carolina. As we approach the end of the first quarter of this year, Election Day 2014 is just over seven months away. Obviously, Primaries are even closer.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder effectively nullified Section 5, a key provision of the Voting Rights Act by striking down Section 4. In July, the North Carolina State Legislature passed an omnibus bill (HB 589) that many consider the signature voter suppression law in the country.
In my July 31, 2013 Blog, I discussed a number of measures enacted in the Old North State that will curtail access to executing the voting franchise by many North Carolinians. In that post I noted, “The North Carolina General Assembly approved a Voter ID law on steroids. The House approved a bill in April that required Voter ID. The Senate then, in the closing days of the session, added 40 pages and over 50 provisions.”
The law not only requires voters to provide a government ID in order to execute their ballot; in addition to disenfranchising 319,000 voters who do not have such an ID (Driver’s License, State ID, Military ID, and U.S. Passport), the bill also:
Ends same day registration
Rescinds automatic restoration of voting rights to ex-felons
Legalizes the right for any person to stand in a polling place and issue a challenge to ones right to vote
Eliminates straight ticket voting
Abolishes pre-registration by 17 year-olds
Reduces Early Voting from 17 days to 10 days
Requires voters to make all address updates or other changes at least 25 days prior to Election Day
Weakens disclosure requirements intended to make clear who underwrites campaign ads
Permits political parties to raise unlimited corporate donations
Raises the cap on individual donations from $4,000 to $5,000
Supporters of the measure insist the new law will “restore faith in elections, and prevent voter fraud, which they say is endemic and undetected (a patently contradictory assertion). Republican partisans make this claim, despite the fact the State Board of Elections there has been one (only one) case of voter fraud identified since 2012.
Conversely, opponents of the law, including nonpartisan voting rights groups, Democrats, and Libertarians contend the true goal of the initiative is to suppress voter turnout among young, old, poor, and minority voters. More than 300,000 North Carolina voters do not possess the requisite ID; most are students, the elderly, the poor, or black. It does not the keenest of observers to recognize President Obama won all those voting blocs except the elderly in both 2008 and 2012. Further, according to North Carolina voting statistics, Democrats are more likely to vote early, and more prone to vote straight ticket.
It is totally fair and appropriate to concede that North Carolina is by no means alone in passing measures similar to this law. In fact most Southern states have instituted such laws in the past year. However, as a proud North Carolinian, born and bred, I do take personal exception to this abridgement of rights. Fortunately, my position is not unique.
The National Commission on Voting Rights (NCVR) is holding a series of hearings across the country to consider acts of voting discrimination and various other election challenges. The NCVR is entity that evolved from the National Commission on the Voting Rights Act. The new group will hold the tenth of its hearings in Rocky Mount, NC on March 28, 2014. This hearing is organized by a coalition of voting rights and civil rights groups, including:
- The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- NC NAACP
- ACLU of North Carolina
- UNC Center for Civil Rights
- Southern Coalition for Social Justice
- Advancement Project
- Democracy North Carolina
At the hearing, a panel will take testimony on a number of topics that include:
- Barriers to access for individuals with disabilities
- African American & Latino voters
- The impact of new voting rules on students
- Needs of rural voters
- Impact of State laws on rural Counties in the State
If you believe this issue is important, and/or if you know others who believe it is an essential undertaking, and you are a North Carolinian, I encourage you to consider attending the NCVR Hearing. See pertinent details below:
WHAT: National Commission on Voting Rights, North Carolina Hearing
Panels – There will be formal panels of witnesses representing voting rights organizations, community leaders, election officials, and other stakeholders. Witnesses are encouraged to submit written testimony in advance of the hearing. The panel of commissioners will also receive the testimony orally and may ask follow up questions.
Open Public Testimony – There will several open public testimony periods for voters to testify about their experiences.
WHEN: Friday, March 28, 2014, 9:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
WHERE: OIC of Rocky Mount, 402 East Virginia St., Rocky Mount, NC 27802
How You Can Get Involved!
- Share your voting experience and/or tell us about voting changes in your community: http://aftershelby.lawyerscommittee.org
- Attend a hearing (details below)
- Call the 1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline to report voting changes in your community
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Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post: