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This morning’s Greensboro News & Record is spot on in an editorial regarding the efforts of Republican lawmakers to keep communications related to the monster voting law secret. Here’s the conclusion:

“Just as literacy tests were really intended, not to make sure voters could read, but to limit voting by blacks, so might similar motives underlie newer forms of voting restrictions. Since federal courts have jurisdiction over state voting laws, they can compel the release of evidence that otherwise might be protected by legislative immunity. Many of the documents sought are communications between legislators and outside parties that normally would be considered public under the state’s open records law. Greater protection can be allowed for communications between legislators and their lawyers or those circulated only among legislators and their staffs.

The judge directed plaintiffs and defendants to confer in more detail about specific documents and issue a status report. A final decision will follow eventually — the case isn’t scheduled to go to trial until next year — but [Judge] Peake indicated she will order legislators to turn over at least some of the documents requested.

The way to get to the truth of the matter is to see what legislators were saying among themselves about the new voting laws.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

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Voter-ID-signToday’s Winston-Salem Journal makes clear one again what advocates for open government have been saying for a long time: state lawmakers ought to be allowed behind absurd claims of privacy and immunity when it comes to the records of their communications as they went about the business of passing the nation’s most restrictive voting law. As the new editorial aptly notes:

“It’s bad enough that our politicians choose their own voters through their redistricting monopoly, but last year the General Assembly passed a so-called ‘voter identification’ bill that will clearly suppress who among us even gets to vote. Read More

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PlaceMattersBTCThis blog post is part of a series called Place Matters. The other posts can be accessed here, here, and here.

The Voting Rights Act subjected 40 percent of North Carolina’s counties to the mandatory “pre-clearance” regulations of Section 5, requiring approval of the Department of Justice or the courts before electoral changes that might weaken the voting power of African American. The evisceration of this landmark legislation by the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder—and subsequent the omission of North Carolina from the covered jurisdictions in newly introduced voting rights legislation—leaves racially excluded communities particularly vulnerable to political isolation and electoral powerlessness.

The UNC Center for Civil Rights’ State of Exclusion report looked at majority-minority North Carolina communities of color (over 75 percent) and measured a variety of factors impacting the quality of life for residents of those communities. The data with regard to political representation was telling, and emphasizes the need for expanding, rather than eliminating, effective policies measures to address the continuing legacy of discrimination in elections. Read More

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In case you missed it over the weekend, one of the nation’s sharpest experts on voting and voter suppression efforts, Prof. Richard Hasen of the University of California, Irvine, (click here to see Hasen interviewed on “News and Views”) had an excellent editorial in the New York Times entitled: “Voter Suppression’s New Pretext.”

He cites North Carolina’s now banished GOP official Don Yelton in the article:

“Unlike with race-based discrimination, which, if proved, could violate both the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution, the Supreme Court has refused to recognize a standard for policing even nakedly partisan gerrymandering.

But now, supporters of strict voter-ID, registration and other voting laws are trying to use the same defense they have used to defend gerrymandering. Read More

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Bob HallThe state’s leading  independent elections law analyst and advocate, Bob Hall of Democracy NC, released the following statement (and data) this morning in response  to the U.S. Justice Department’s announcment that it will sue the state of North Carolina over the racially discriminatory impact of new voter suppression laws:

“Democracy North Carolina applauds the decision of the US Department of Justice to file suit against key provisions of North Carolina’s new anti-voter law, HB-589. We welcome a vigorous challenge to a law designed to push away certain voters and rig the election system to benefit incumbent politicians.

North Carolina has a sad history of voter suppression, stemming from the Jim Crow laws adopted by Democrats over 100 years ago that included the poll tax, literacy tests and other measures aimed at pushing away African Americans and low-income white voters. As a result of those laws and intimidating practices, North Carolina ranked in the bottom 12 states for voter turnout throughout the entire Twentieth Century.

Since 2000, voter participation has finally begun to increase for all parties and demographic groups, thanks to Early Voting, Same-Day Registration, and other measures that make voting more accessible yet secure. In 2008, North Carolina climbed to 22nd among the 50 states for voter turnout among eligible citizens, and in 2012 we ranked 11th, a modern record.

Republican lawmakers had clear evidence that their proposals would harm African American voters more than white voters, yet they intentionally chose to adopt those provisions. Read More