Be 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.