By Jueseppi B.
Add Rosanell Eaton’s name to the list of those who might be affected by North Carolina’s new voting bill, which starts but doesn’t end with provisions requiring certain forms of photo ID at the polls.
The 92-year-old Eaton is a plaintiff in a lawsuit announced on Mondayafter North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill, passed at the end of the legislative session with the support of GOP super-majorities in the state House and Senate.
A legal complaint filed by the Advancement Project, a national civil-rights group, on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP and Eaton contends that her ability to vote has been threatened by the law. Eaton’s name on her certified birth certificate does not match the name on her driver’s license or the name on her voter registration card, which could complicate her efforts to obtain the valid ID card the new law requires. Eaton, an African American, first registered in the 1940s despite intimidation, according to the Advancement Project.
Opponents of the new law fear its provisions would particularly target minorities, the elderly, the poor and the young. “With the stroke of his pen, Gov. McCrory has transformed North Carolina from a state with one of the nation’s most progressive voting systems, where we saw some of the highest voter turnout rates of the last two presidential elections, into a state with the most draconian policies we’ve seen in decades, policies that harken back to the days of Jim Crow,” Advancement Project co-director Penda Hair said.
“The law clearly violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups. It also violates our nation’s cherished promise of equality as expressed in the 14th and 15th Amendments of our Constitution.”
McCrory defended the bill in a video, in which he blamed criticism on “scare tactics” from the “extreme left.” He called the measures “common sense,” and said in a statement, “Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID, and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote.”
Besides the voter ID requirement, the sweeping legislation shortens the early voting period from 17 to 10 days, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-old voters who will be 18 on election day, eliminates same-day voter registration, Sunday voting and straight-ticket voting, prohibits university students from using their college IDs, prohibits paid voter registration drives and increases the number of poll watchers who can challenge a voter’s eligibility. It also increases the maximum allowed campaign contribution for each election from $4,000 to $5,000 and repeals the requirement that candidates endorse ads run by their campaigns.
While voter ID on its own is popular, a Public Policy Polling surveyrecently found North Carolinians are opposed to many of the bill’s other provisions. For example, the poll found, just 33 percent of voters support reducing the early voting period by a week compared to 59 percent who are opposed, with Independents (by a 28 percent to 62 percent margin) and Democrats (22 percent approve/70 percent disapprove) strongly opposed.
In 2008, Barack Obama got fewer votes on Election Day, but narrowly won North Carolina because of early voting, which is disproportionately used by Democratic and African-American voters in the state. While the bill’s supporters say the legislation will reduce fraud and insure the integrity of the vote, opponents say the real motivation is to suppress the votes of groups that traditionally lean Democratic and that disproportionately lack photo ID. Absentee voting, overwhelmingly used by white voters, has looser ID requirements.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina Foundation and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a different lawsuit in federal court on Monday, fighting the elimination of the week of early voting, the end of same-day registration, and the prohibition of out-of precinct voting, according to the News & Observer. The suit says those provisions would discriminate against African-American voters in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“This law is a disaster,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Union’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “Eliminating a huge part of early voting will cut off voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of citizens. It will turn Election Day into a mess, shoving more voters into even longer lines.”
Other lawsuits may be filed, with possible action by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who has said the Justice Department would try to block laws implemented in Texas after a Supreme Court decision invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one that required selected jurisdictions to “pre-clear” any voting changes. In North Carolina, 40 of 100 counties had been covered.
Before McCrory signed the bill, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, had urged the governor to veto it and circulated a petition with the same message. That started speculation that Cooper could challenge McCrory in 2016.
The voting bill promises to resonate throughout the state and nation. In a recent meeting with civil rights leaders, President Obama discussed strategies to strengthen voting rights in the face of restrictive state legislation. And on Monday, former Secretary of State and possible 2016 presidential contender Hillary Clinton gave a policy speech on the issue in San Francisco at the American Bar Association. Clinton particularly called out North Carolina’s law as “the greatest hits of voter suppression.”
While voter ID provisions won’t go into effect until the 2016 elections, other provisions will roll out before. It’s not known if the new law will motivate voters who disapprove, as happened in Florida in 2012 when long lines and laws cutting early voting did not deter voters. The law will surely be a key rallying cry as “Moral Monday” demonstrations continue to cross the state. It’s the next step in the NAACP-led, diverse movement that gathered and grew weekly to thousands during the legislative session in the state capital of Raleigh to protest a wave of conservative economic and social proposals, with voter ID high on the list.
Just before the funeral of civil rights attorney Julius Chambers in Charlotte last week, the Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, vowed to remember the late director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund “through imitation.” Barber said, “We’re going to continue to imitate him by continuing to fight for justice fight for equality, fight for human rights, fight for voting rights.”
A “Moral Monday” protest is planned for Aug. 19 in Charlotte.
Follow Mary on Twitter @mcurtisnc3
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Inside Story : How relevant is the US Voting Rights Act?
Published on Feb 28, 2013
The five-decades-old Voting Rights Act is considered a triumph of the civil rights era. It was put in place to ensure that states with deep history of racial discrimination did not prevent minorities from their constitutional right to vote. But the US Supreme Court is now considering whether to do away with a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act.
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