Commentary

New York Times features voting rights op-ed by Rev. Barber

Rev. barber 2Be sure to check out the opinion section of the New York Times this morning, which features an op-ed by Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP entitled “The Retreat From Voting Rights.”

Here are some highlights:

“ON Monday, Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, N.C., upheld legislation passed in 2013 that imposed far-reaching restrictions on voting across this state, including strict voter-identification requirements. Judge Schroeder justified his decision by claiming that robust turnout in 2014 proved that the law did not suppress the black vote. But in reality, his ruling defended the worst attack on voting rights since the 19th century….

In his ruling, Judge Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, said that there is “little official discrimination to consider” today. His nearly 500-page ruling is in keeping with the 19th-century opponents of “Negro rule” who argued that voter intimidation was not “official discrimination” because it was carried out by the Ku Klux Klan. In later years, poll taxes and literacy tests were also deemed not “official discrimination.”

North Carolina actually began rolling back voting protections in 2010, when the new Republican majority adopted a redistricting plan that packed black voters into a few districts and carefully limited the power of interracial coalitions. Racial gerrymandering elected a veto-proof Republican supermajority. When its champion, Thom Tillis, then ran for United States Senate in 2014, he won by more than 45,000 votes.

Since the Shelby decision, many states have been emboldened to implement laws like North Carolina’s. Republican-controlled election boards have greatly reduced the number of polling places. Wisconsin recently passed a bill creating major hurdles to voter registration campaigns. Alabama closed driver’s license offices in several counties with high percentages of black voters. But after an outcry, it sent part-time license examiners to those counties.

Allowing this kind of retrenchment on voting rights sets a dangerous precedent, especially in the South. In the 11 former Confederate states, there are 160 electoral votes, 22 United States Senate seats and 131 House seats. We cannot allow this level of political power to be determined by discriminatory voting laws.”

After noting the actions of civil rights activists a half century ago to overcome obstructionism and physical violence, Barber concludes this way:

“Half a century later, we again struggle for unfettered access to the ballot, especially for the most vulnerable among us. The Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the protections stripped away by Shelby, has stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Strom Thurmond was able to filibuster the 1964 Civil Rights Act for only 24 hours. But today’s extremists have buried voting rights here for nearly three years. It is time for the silence to end.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

National political columnist lambastes NC voting rights decision

Voting rightsOne of America’s funniest and most insightful political columnists has authored a succinct and excellent take-down of Judge Thomas Schroeder’s lame but predictable approval of North Carolina’s monster voter suppression law.

Here’s Esquire’s Charles Pierce in “North Carolina’s Voting Laws Are Conspicuously Suppressing the Vote: And yet they were just upheld by a Bush-appointed judge”:

Did you hear the trumpets in the sky Monday evening? The Day of Jubilee has sounded again, this time in North Carolina.

In his ruling, the judge suggested that past discrimination had abated. “There is significant, shameful past discrimination,” he wrote. “In North Carolina’s recent history, however, certainly for the last quarter century, there is little official discrimination to consider.”

In upholding the voter suppression laws in the now consistently insane state of North Carolina, Judge Thomas Schroeder, another gift to the Republic from the late Avignon Presidency, has walked right on the same glory road that led Chief Justice John Roberts to cut the viscera from the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County. The conservative movement has worked hard to salt the federal judiciary with people who believe that government has done all it can in the fight against institutional racism, and that the fight itself was won decades ago, and that the country never backslides once it has achieved progress. Combined with this fantastical vision of a country that exists somewhere between the Western Isles and the Big Rock Candy Mountain, these judges also appear completely oblivious to how most people—and especially, most poor people—actually exist in the world. Read more

Commentary

Decision upholding NC’s restrictive voting law is far from the end of the story (UPDATED)

Voter-ID-signThe lengthy ruling yesterday by Judge Thomas Schroeder (a George W. Bush appointee to the federal courts) upholding North Carolina’s restrictive voter ID law is far from the end of the story on the matter. The following statement issued after the decision by advocates from the ACLU of North Carolina and Southern Coalition for Social Justice explains why:

The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Coalition for Social Justice condemned today’s federal court ruling upholding provisions of North Carolina’s restrictive voting law. The groups are analyzing the court’s decision and considering next steps.

The groups are challenging provisions that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit the counting of out-of-precinct ballots. Thousands of North Carolinians, disproportionately African-Americans, have relied on those provisions to cast their votes in past elections.

“The sweeping barriers imposed by this law undermine voter participation and have an overwhelmingly discriminatory impact on African-Americans. This ruling does not change that reality. We are already examining an appeal,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

The ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina, and Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed the lawsuit in 2013 on behalf of several plaintiffs, including the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, North Carolina Common Cause, and Unifour Onestop Collaborative, and several individuals.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals previously ordered North Carolina to restore same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting for the 2014 elections as the case made its way through the courts; that ruling was ultimately reversed, however, and the provisions remained in effect.

“Today’s ruling is inconsistent with the Fourth Circuit’s decision in 2014, and we’re confident that the voters in this state will eventually be vindicated,” said Southern Coalition for Social Justice senior attorney Allison Riggs.

At federal trial in July 2015, dozens of witnesses spoke of how the law has severely restricted ballot access for the state’s most vulnerable citizens, including low-income voters, those with transportation challenges, and particularly African-American voters. In the 2012 election, 900,000 North Carolinians cast their ballots during the seven days of early voting eliminated by the North Carolina General Assembly – 70 percent of those who voted early were African-American.

The ACLU and Southern Coalition for Social Justice charge the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act.

This morning, Bob Hall, Executive Director of the voting watchdog group Democracy North Carolina offered the following statement: Read more

Commentary

Richard Burr at the center of the most ridiculous (and telling) story of the weekend

Richard Burr 2Another “you can’t make this stuff up” story came to light this weekend in the saga of North Carolina’s monster voter suppression law.

As Lynn Bonner of Raleigh’s News & Observer reported:

“U.S. Sen. Richard Burr cast a ballot during the the early voting period for the North Carolina primary after going to a polling place without an acceptable form of identification.

Burr, a Republican from Winston-Salem running for re-election, cast a provisional ballot and filled out a ‘reasonable impediment’ form, state elections records show.

‘Sen. Burr discovered he lost his ID when he arrived at the polling location, but he went out and got a new drivers license,’ his spokeswoman said in an email.”

There are several obvious takeaways from this story.

Number One is that had Republicans not made their last minute move to add the “reasonable impediments” language to their voter ID law last summer in response to court challenges, Burr would have been out of luck.

Number Two is that the whole incident points out the absurdity of the voter ID law. There is no actual widespread fraud that the law will attack. Instead, thousands of people who lack ID like Burr — many of whom have been voting religiously since the senator was in short pants — will be discouraged from voting.

Number Three is: How does a United States Senator lose his driver’s license and forget about it before heading out to vote for himself? Let’s hope Burr has a few choice words for his Senate colleague, the former Speaker of the North Carolina House and architect of the suppression law — Thom Tillis — the next time the two are sipping lattes in the Senate cloakroom.

Finally, Number Four is this: Let’s hope all the judges who will ultimately rule on the constitutionality of the law become aware of the Burr situation and take it into their calculus in rendering the ultimate decisions in the matter.

Commentary

New research: Voter suppression tactics really work

Voting rightsAs North Carolinians await a verdict in the federal court case challenging their state’s voter suppression laws, a new national study confirms what common sense tells us: these laws really do work to depress the vote.

Scott Keyes at Think Progress has the story:

“For years, researchers warned that laws requiring voters to show certain forms of photo identification at the poll would discriminate against racial minorities and other groups. Now, the first study has been released showing that the proliferation of voter ID laws in recent years has indeed driven down minority voter turnout, and by a significant amount.

In a new paper entitled “Voter Identification Laws and the Suppression of Minority Votes”, researchers at the University of California, San Diego — Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi — and Bucknell University — Lindsay Nielson — used data from the annual Cooperative Congressional Election Study to compare states with strict voter ID laws to those that allow voters without photo ID to cast a ballot. They found a clear and significant dampening effect on minority turnout in strict voter ID states.”

The researchers found that strict voter ID laws could depress turnout in primary elections amongst African American, Latino and Asian American voters by numbers as high as 8.6%, 9.3% and 12.6%, respectively.

But, of course, you know that these laws are really just about attacking “fraud.”