Voting rights advocates respond to latest voter ID ruling

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit may have voided a District Court ruling that put a preliminary hold on the General Assembly’s latest effort to require North Carolinians to produce a photo ID in order to vote yesterday, but it’s far from the end of the story according to voting rights advocates.

As both the North Carolina NAACP and Democracy North Carolina pointed out in statements released after the ruling was handed down, the groups had always anticipated that the matter would proceed to a full trial (which is the next step in the case) and remain confident that they will prevail in the end. The advocates also noted that a separate state court lawsuit on the matter continues to move forward as well.

This is from the NAACP statement:

“…this preliminary ruling does not mean that the state of North Carolina is now authorized to implement its proposed strict photo voter ID requirement. The injunction from a state case challenging S.B. 824 (Holmes v. Moore) remains in place. Both the Holmes matter and NAACP v. Cooper are set to go to trial in 2021 for a final resolution on the merits.

Attorney Irv Joyner, counsel representing the NC NAACP plaintiffs, made the following statement today: ‘NC NAACP is reviewing this decision and we are considering all appellate options. We steadfastly believe that the Honorable Judge Biggs’s findings and determinations were correct at the preliminary injunction phase.  Nonetheless, under the reasoning of the decision today, NC NAACP Plaintiffs’ evidence will also prevail at trial on the full merits and we look forward to the fight for justice ahead.’

…SB 824 is being challenged on the grounds that the law was passed with a discriminatory intent and will produce discriminatory results on African-American and Latinx voters. The law is being challenged under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. S.B. 824 requires registered voters to show one of a limited number of photo identification cards in order to cast a ballot and have it counted in a North Carolina election. This requirement will disproportionately injure African American and Latinx voters, who are less likely than other members of the electorate to possess the required forms of identification and who also face disproportionate burdens in obtaining such identification. As a result, African American and Latinx voters are more likely than other North Carolina voters to have their votes denied, diluted, or abridged by S.B. 824.”

And this is from Democracy NC:

“Strict photo voter ID requirements have faced scrutiny in North Carolina since 2013, when legislators passed a similar bill that the Fourth Circuit later held discriminated against Black voters with ‘surgical precision.’ The law at issue in this, S.B. 824 is being challenged on the grounds that the law was passed with a discriminatory intent and will produce discriminatory results on Black and Latinx voters. NAACP v. Raymond challenges S.B. 824 under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the 15th Amendment of the Constitution. The plaintiffs in this case are the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, Greensboro NAACP, High Point NAACP, Moore County NAACP, Stokes County NAACP, and Winston-Salem Forsyth County NAACPs. In their statement earlier today, the plaintiffs anticipated the case proceeding to a full trial. A separate suit remains active in the North Carolina state court system, where an injunction blocking the ID requirement’s implementation remains in place.

Voting rights advocacy group Democracy North Carolina will continue to gather data and stories to showcase the requirement will ultimately disenfranchise thousands of NC Black and Latinx voters by limiting their access to the ballot. This type of legislation deprives eligible voters of their right to vote and reduces overall participation in the democratic process.

Tomas Lopez, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina states, ‘We will continue to fight racially discriminatory voting laws that hinder Black and Latinx voters’ fundamental right to access the ballot. Despite today’s ruling, a state court injunction blocking the photo voter ID requirement remains in place, and both the federal and state cases remain active.'”

Advocacy groups announce partial settlement in lawsuit over hospital discrimination against blind patients

Nash Hospitals, Inc. agrees to pay $150,000, plus attorney fees; suit continues against UNC Health Care

Two years ago, the National Federation of the Blind, Disability Rights North Carolina and individual blind patients sued UNC Health Care System and Nash Hospitals, Inc. (which does business as “Nash UNC Health Care”) for systematic discrimination.

The lawsuit, which was brought under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, alleged that blind patients did not receive critical communications in alternate formats — such as Braille, large print, or electronic documents — but only in standard print. This failure caused financial and personal hardships for blind patients and prevented them from keeping their medical information private.

Today, the advocacy groups announced that a settlement had been reached with one of the defendants in the case. This is from a news release distributed this morning:

“Nash Hospitals, Inc. will pay $150,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees to settle legal claims by a blind Rocky Mount, NC man whom Nash General Hospital refused to provide written materials in Braille. The National Federation of the Blind, America’s civil rights organization of the blind, and Disability Rights North Carolina also agreed to not pursue further litigation against Nash Hospitals, Inc. for its past failures to provide written materials in formats accessible to the blind.

John Bone received emergency medical care at Nash General Hospital. Mr. Bone’s claims stemmed from his inability to read bills and other communications from Nash relating to his medical care because they were not provided to him in Braille, either at all or on a timely basis, resulting in collection agencies pursuing him for debts that he was unaware he owed. Importantly, these debts are also being forgiven as part of the settlement.”

The announcement went on to say that while Nash Hospitals, Inc. is no longer part of the lawsuit, the litigation against UNC Health Care System, will continue:

“Timothy Miles, Mr. Bone, the National Federation of the Blind, and Disability Rights NC allege that UNC Health Care System systematically discriminates against blind people by failing to provide them written information in formats they can access, such as large print, Braille, and accessible electronic formats, that enable them to participate in their care and make timely payments on their medical bills.”

National Federation for the Blind President Mark Riccobono

According to Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, it ought not to be that difficult for UNC to accommodate blind patients. “With today’s technology, providing bills, medical records, and treatment instructions in alternative formats, such as Braille and large print, is readily achievable,” he said. “We are happy to work with healthcare entities who want guidance in providing medical information in accessible formats.”

Disability Rights NC executive director Virginia Knowlton Marcus said she hoped the settlement would send a message to health care providers. “Sighted people count on receiving printed bills from their healthcare providers, reviewing the charges, and negotiating with medical providers and the insurance company if they believe they were charged incorrectly,” she said. “Blind patients like Mr. Bone should not have to wrangle for their right to billing information in a format they can access, or live in fear of building up late fees and damaging their credit due to bills that are impossible for them to read.”

This past weekend’s best editorial

Image: Adobe Stock

In case you missed it, be sure to check out an especially thoughtful editorial that ran yesterday in Raleigh’s News & Observer entitled “When the pandemic ends, should criminal justice return to ‘normal’? Maybe not.”

As the authors explain, the convergence of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement has served to shine a spotlight on the need for a lasting and systemic overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system.

As the essay notes, “the lowering of the criminal justice system’s usual volume has let prosecutors, law enforcement officials and lawmakers consider whether the previous levels of arrests and jailing were necessary.” And happily, some important recommendations of this kind are likely in the offing from the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice that Gov. Cooper commissioned earlier this year.

Again, the N&O editorial:

State Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat who previously served as an assistant district attorney in Durham and as a district court judge, is a member of the task force and chair of its working group on court procedures.

…Morey said she was impressed by the members’ ability to reach consensus on the need for changes after being presented with statistics on racial discrimination within the criminal justice system.

…The task force has already indicated it will recommend the decriminalization of the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, a charge brought disproportionately against Blacks. But Morey said the task force also will call for much broader reforms “from the beginning of the criminal process to the end — the death penalty.”

“I think it will be a very bold report,” she said. “I hope there will be recommendations to achieve real changes for racial equity.”

The pandemic has created a painful disruption in the economy and social connections. But it has also exposed inequities. Once the pandemic passes, we hope the criminal justice system can stick with and build on changes that have fostered fairness in the treatment of all who pass through the state’s courts, jails and prisons.

As the editorial and several other developments (like the ongoing “vigil for freedom and racial justice” taking place outside the Governor’s mansion right now) make clear, North Carolina has an enormous and unaddressed crisis in its criminal justice and corrections systems. Let’s hope state leaders make theses issues a top priority in 2021.

Trump goes into full P.T. Barnum mode with latest fundraising scam

One thing you can never accuse Donald Trump of is suffering from a lack of gall. No one in the history of American politics at the national level has ever possessed, much less maintained for decades, such a complete and unshakable willingness to stare straight into the eyes of his most loyal supporters and lie like a cheap rug.

Sometimes the substance and potential consequences of these lies have been horrific — as when he has compromised national security by telling falsehood after falsehood about his relationship with his buddy Vladimir Putin or, more recently, when he threatened to undermine our democracy by challenging the legitimacy of a national election.

More, often, however, Trump’s scam is to spew B.S. like a two-bit carnival barker in hopes of lining his own pockets. Like a 21st Century P.T. Barnum, Trump knows that his target audience is utterly hoodwinked and he is willing to debase just about anyone or anything in order to keep playing the con.

For the latest ridiculous head slapper of an example, check out the following excerpts from an email solicitation sent last evening by the man who will remain, for 56 more long and frightening days, President of the United States:

EXCLUSIVE OFFER

Rob,

You’ve always been there for me no matter what. Despite everything the Fake News media and Democrats have thrown at us, your loyalty has never wavered.

To show you how much I appreciate your support, I want to do something special for YOU:

For a short time, when you make a contribution of $30, my team will send you our ICONIC “COUNT ALL LEGAL VOTES” shirt FOR FREE.

This offer is available to you for ONE HOUR, Rob. After that, you may never get another chance to receive a FREE “COUNT ALL LEGAL VOTES” shirt.

Please contribute $30 IMMEDIATELY to support your favorite President and to claim your FREE “COUNT ALL LEGAL VOTES” SHIRT. >>

I REALLY want you to have this LIMITED EDITION shirt, Rob.

There isn’t much time left, so don’t wait.

Just contribute $30 NOW and claim your FREE “COUNT ALL LEGAL VOTES” SHIRT

Thank you,

 

 

 

Donald J. Trump
President of the United States

P.S. As always, everything is made in America.

CONTRIBUTE $30

As is always the case with Trump, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the preposterous gibberish that appears above and under his name. But given the almost certain fact that hundreds of poor souls of modest means across our great country raced last night to beat the one-hour “deadline” by sending some of their hard-earned cash to this shameless charlatan, both responses would be fully in order.

Editorial: Election confirms once again what voter ID laws are really about

In case you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out the latest lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer: “The 2020 election did expose one fraud: the GOP case for Voter ID.”

As the editorial explains, the recently concluded election, in which more Americans than ever cast a vote, demonstrated once again why voter ID laws serve no useful purpose other than to discourage lawful voters from voting. After explaining how, despite a nationwide GOP effort to ferret out fraud, virtually none has been found, the editorial puts it this way:

If there was an election in which the GOP could prove widespread voter fraud instead of just imagining it, 2020 was it.

Instead, Americans learned what experts had long told us. Election fraud is rare, and the kind of fraud that Voter ID would address – people going to a precinct and attempting to vote as someone else – is almost non-existent. As of Thursday, the Trump campaign and other Republican interests have filed more than 30 election lawsuits in 6 states. No court has found a single instance of fraud.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. One exhaustive study of 12 years of elections in five states found only 500 cases of alleged voter fraud. In 2016, North Carolina’s Board of Elections found that 4,769,640 votes were cast in November and that one would probably have been avoided with a voter ID law.

And while the editorial readily concedes that there will always be isolated incidents of fraud anytime 150 million people cast ballots, it rightfully observes that a much more dangerous threat to the integrity of elections is to be found in the behavior of Trump toadies like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who tried to get the Georgia Secretary of State to toss out legal ballots in areas that voted for President-elect Biden. Here’s the excellent conclusion:

That’s fraudulent, too, by the way. But it’s not new. In North Carolina, Republican lawmakers have spent the past decade pushing for measures that make it harder for their opponents’ supporters to cast a ballot. They crafted a 2013 grab bag of voter suppression measures, including new voter identification requirements, that a federal court threw out because it deliberately diluted the power of Black voters and targeted them with “almost surgical precision.” They’ve had a subsequent attempt at Voter ID blocked by state and federal judges because of the possibility of discriminatory intent. A federal appeals court heard oral arguments on that law in September.

Such measures have long been unnecessary, and the 2020 election once again showed why. Americans didn’t cheat. We voted. Republicans should stop trying to make that harder.

Click here to read the entire editorial.