Literacy tests are still in the North Carolina constitution. Lawmakers want to change that.

Legislators have raised a bill that would repeal the literacy test requirement as a condition to vote in North Carolina, provided voters approve the constitutional amendment in a future election.

The use of literacy tests is not enforceable because of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but they are still a part of the North Carolina constitution.

A new state constitution took effect in 1971, featuring a slew of amendments that were ratified by North Carolinians. But the people did not approve an amendment passed by the General Assembly that would have repealed the literacy test, even though the Voting Rights Act made it un-enforceable. Those tests were used in North Carolina and across the South to prevent African Americans from registering to vote.

Before winning a seat on the state Supreme Court last election cycle, Richard Dietz suggested removing literacy tests  from the state constitution, claiming that their continued presence in such an important state document  dulls its shine.

“I think when people look at the state constitution, we want to be proud to see those rights that are in there,” Dietz said at a candidate forum before getting elected. “I’d like to see we the people get together and delete some of that stuff.”

Lawmakers apparently heard him. The bill before the legislature currently has more than 80 sponsors. The primary sponsors are Rep. Kelly M. Alexander, Jr. (D-Mecklenburg), Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), Rep. Terry M. Brown Jr. (D-Mecklenburg) and Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Surry).

Voters would have to approve the constitutional amendment in a statewide general election held on Nov. 5, 2024.

[This story has been update to clarify that the Governor plays no role in the approval of constitutional amendments.]

On MLK holiday, a renewed push to address poverty, voting rights: ‘We cannot be silent or unseen.’

Bishop William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, used the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to demand the president and congressional leadership on both sides of the aisle meet with poor and low-wealth people and religious leaders to address the policy decisions that have held millions of Americans in poverty.

“Sadly, many will go to King events today and claim to honor the prophet. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle will go while even today, they are standing diametrically opposed to the things he fought for: addressing systemic poverty, addressing racism, [and] ensuring voter protection,” said Barber in a videotaped message.

Barber also called out the Moore v. Harper case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, in which Republicans are arguing that state courts should not have the power to review laws for federal elections, including congressional redistricting plans, passed by state legislatures.

“That’s not going forward. That’s going backwards,” said Barber. “That’s not the dream, that’s the nightmare.”

The Poor People’s Campaign plans to dispatch its members in the coming weeks to meet with congressional representatives urging action in the 118th Congress on living wages, voting rights, and healthcare for all.

“Our job is to pick up the work. Every round must go higher,” Barber told the audience honoring King’s legacy.

Last month, Barber, the founder of the Moral Monday movement and former head of the N.C. NAACP, announced plans to lead a new center at the Yale Divinity School.

Click below to watch an excerpt of his remarks on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday:



The future of voter ID, new marriage protections for same-sex and interracial couples, and a rather testy legislative hearing: The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

===10. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

Landmark voting rights case to be heard by Supreme Court Wednesday (podcast)

It has been called the “biggest threat to free and fair elections” in the United States. And on Wednesday Republican lawmakers will argue in support of a fringe theory known as the “independent state legislature doctrine” that could forever change our elections.

Moore v. Harper  has been in the headlines a lot this week, but if you don’t fully understand the history of the landmark case or what’s at stake in this dangerous power grab, make time today to listen to Policy Watch’s recent interview with Common Cause North Carolina executive director Bob Phillips:

After oral arguments are heard tomorrow, a number of pro-democracy groups will hold a press conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court. That event will feature speakers from Common Cause, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the N.C. League of Conservation Voters,  the National Redistricting Foundation and the legal teams at global law firm Hogan Lovells.

NC Policy Watch will also provide coverage of the proceedings.

Report: Biden says South Carolina should be first primary state, Michigan first in Midwest