The list of horribles in the General Assembly’s new voter suppression bill is a long one. As ACLU of North Carolina Legislative Director Sarah Preston remarked last night:
“H.B. 589 attacks democracy at its core as it is clearly designed to make it more difficult for thousands of eligible voters to register and cast a ballot. Many of these restrictions, such as eliminating pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds and disallowing use of college IDs at the polls, will severely discourage young people from participating in elections. Others, such as shortening early voting and making it more difficult to set up satellite polling stations, will be extremely burdensome for elderly and disabled voters who rely on such methods to cast their votes. In a session marked by attacks on North Carolinians’ most basic liberties, H.B. 589 is one of the most shameful and severe. We urge the House to protect ballot access for all by rejecting this bill.”
One especially awful provision, however, that has not gotten as much attention as it deserves is the one that dramatically expands citizen challenges to voters. Current law requires challengers to live in the same precinct as the voter they are challenging. The new law (see page 35 of the proposed legislation) loosens it to the same county. As multiple nonpartisan good government experts have noted, this change is an extremely worrisome invitation to intimidation, conflict and even violence at North Carolina polling places.
Essentially, the new law invites self-appointed, partisan election “observers” (who presumably could be armed with concealed weapons) to invade precincts in neighborhoods in which they would like to depress turnout and commence mass challenges to the validity of the identification cards displayed by voters. And don’t think some of the groups behind the legislation aren’t already contemplating such actions.
In other words, North Carolina’s ongoing transformation into a banana republic continues unabated. God help the Old North State.