Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend

The Asheville Citizen-Times had a fine editorial over the weekend entitled “Dear NCGA: Step away from the ballot box and move on.” As the editorial rightfully explains:

“Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has put the issue to rest, more or less, the North Carolina General Assembly should stop trying to undermine the integrity of the electoral system by seeking to disenfranchise voters.

Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen. But we can still ask.

Last week the justices refused to consider an appellate decision striking down key portions of North Carolina’s voter ID law. While Chief Justice John Roberts stressed that the court was not ruling on the merits of the case, the effect was to keep the law off the books.

Leaders of the General Assembly took Roberts’ words as a license to stay their course. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger said that ‘all North Carolinians can rest assured that Republican legislators will continue fighting to protect the integrity of our elections by implementing the commonsense requirement to show a photo ID when we vote.’

They in fact are the ones attacking the integrity of elections, as the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals made clear when it reversed a trial court decision upholding the law. The restrictions the state enacted ‘target African-Americans with almost surgical precision,’ the judges wrote. The law, they said, was adopted with ‘discriminatory intent.’

In addition to barring the state from requiring voter ID at the polls, the decision restored a week of early voting and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and ensured that same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting would remain in effect.

The legislators evidently assume that African-Americans are likely to favor Democrats at the polls, a not unreasonable assumption considering how many Republicans in the South have treated African-Americans ever since the infamous Southern strategy of the Nixon years….

Opponents of the law greeted the latest development with approval. The ‘announcement is good news for North Carolina voters. We need to be making it easier to vote, not harder,’ Gov. Roy Cooper said in a release, adding that he ‘will continue to work to protect the right of every legal, registered North Carolinian to participate in our democratic process.’

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said it’s time for Republicans to stop proposing new restrictions. ‘We urge the General Assembly to finally accept that racially discriminatory laws have no place in our democracy, and certainly not when it comes to the sacred right to vote,’ Barber said in a release.

It would be nice if legislative leaders would pay attention. First, the General Assembly has lots of other things to do. Second, efforts to suppress voting undermine public trust in elections and in government.

Sadly, those leaders seem determined to put partisan considerations ahead of the integrity of the electoral system.”

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