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Voting rights advocates decry voter suppression effort in Guilford County

It never ceases to amaze that powerful forces in American politics still want to make it harder for people to vote. Yet that’s where things stand once again this morning as county boards of election in North Carolina begin to gather to make decisions about how to organize and manage the November election. In Greensboro today, the Guilford County Board of Elections will meet to review a proposal that would take several steps backward on this critical issue. This is from the government watchdogs at Democracy North Carolina:

Birthplace of Sit-In Movement Takes Center Stage In Next Chapter of North Carolina’s Voting Wars

WHAT:   Despite the recent federal court ruling against voting restrictions, the Republican majority on the Guilford County Board of Elections (Greensboro) wants to reduce the 2016 Early Voting plan from what the county offered in 2012.

On Monday, August 8, the Board will take up and likely vote on a plan that would:

  • cut by nearly half the number of Early Voting sites provided in 2012, including most sites inside Greensboro;
  • completely eliminate Sunday voting;
  • cut the popular site in the African-American community at Barber Park; and
  • eliminate the sites at UNC-Greensboro and NC A&T University.

WHEN:  The three-member Guilford County Board of Elections is holding a special meeting on Monday, August 8, at 1 p.m. to consider this plan by the two Republicans, as well as a proposal from the lone Democrat on the Board. A majority vote carries the day.

August 8 is two days after the 51st anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

WHERE: The meeting with be in the Blue Room at 301 W Market St., Greensboro 27401 (the Old County Courthouse).

WHO:  Community members, religious leaders, voting-rights groups, and others will be on hand to protest this sinister attempt to thwart the will of the court.

WHY:  The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling restored the old statute requiring a 17-day period of Early Voting instead of 10 days. Most large counties opened numerous Early Voting sites but that old statute requires only one be open. County boards of elections are now free to use “local discretion” to serve voters – or preserve discrimination, as local boards once did by using tactics like making African Americans recite the Preamble to the Constitution or guess the number of marbles in a jar in order to register to vote.

All 100 counties will be making Early Voting plans in the next two weeks. Guilford County is the first we know to meet – and it will be a very contentious meeting that dramatizes the conflicting interests involved in North Carolina’s ongoing war over the right to vote.  It happens two days after the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act in the city where four NC A&T students began the civil rights sit-in movement.

Ironically, a terrible Early Voting plan can create longer lines for the excited voters who want to vote early – which could be white Republican men this year, as it was in North Carolina in 2010.  A bad plan will also create longer lines and put more stress on Election Day, which harms all voters.

Meanwhile, advocates at the ACLU of North Carolina and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice sent a letter to the State Board of Elections last Friday in which they attacked actions in Guilford County as an attempt to suppress the vote. This is from a joint release from the two groups issued this morning that described the letter:

We believe the action being considered by the Guilford County Board of Elections, and potentially others, violates the law,” the letter reads. “The Guilford Board’s drastic reduction in early voting opportunities can only be interpreted as intentional action taken to suppress voting this November, particularly among young voters and voters of color.

More than half of all North Carolina voters will likely use early voting this November, according to the state Board of Elections. In 2012, 70% of African American voters in North Carolina used early voting. The 2013 law reduced the number of early voting days in North Carolina from 17 to 10.

In Friday’s letter, the groups say that if adopted, the Guilford County proposal could result in further legal liability under the Voting Rights Act and United States Constitution.

Read the letter at http://www.acluofnc.org/files/letters/8_5_16_Letter_to_SBOE_signed.pdf

 

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