The Justice Department is currently battling South Carolina and Texas in court over voting laws they’ve put forward. Attorney General Eric Holder recently told members of the Conference of National Black Churches that the “sacred” right to vote was threatened by some of these laws. Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, backed the laws in a recent editorial that cites multiple examples of alleged fraud. Voter ID laws, he said, were based on a “common-sense proposal [that] seeks to further preserve the sanctity of our elections by ensuring that only eligible voters vote in American elections.” Priebus and others have argued that the laws don’t present an undue barrier to minorities, in part because they say it shouldn’t be difficult to procure a photo ID.
The Republican controlled North Carolina legislature passed the country’s worst voter suppression law after only three days of debate. Rick Hasen of Election Law Blog called it “the most sweeping anti-voter law in at least decades” The bill mandates strict voter ID to vote even though 318,000 registered voters lack the narrow forms of acceptable ID according to the state’s own numbers and there have been no recorded prosecutions of voter impersonation in the past decade. The bill reduces the number of early voting days by a week, even though 56 percent of North Carolinians voted early in 2012. The bill eliminates same-day voter registration during the early voting period, even though 96,000 people used it during the general election in 2012 and states that have adopted the convenient reform have the highest voter turnout in the country. While Republicans claim that the law is designed to eliminate voter fraud, the real reason is turn-out. For example, African-Americans are 23 percent of registered voters in the North Carolina, but made up 28 percent of early voters in 2012, 33 percent of those who used same-day registration and 34 percent of those without state-issued ID. Of course, we all know that the majority of African Americans vote Democrat. In addition, the bill eliminates nearly everything that encourages people to vote in North Carolina and replaced by unnecessary and burdensome new restrictions. At the same time, the bill expands the influence of unregulated corporate influence in state elections.
“I want you to understand what this bill means to people,” said Representative Mickey Michauz (D-Durham), the longest-serving member of the North Carolina House and a veteran of the civil rights movement who grew up in the Jim Crow South. “We have fought for, died for and struggled for our right to vote. You can take these 57 pages of abomination and confine them to the streets of Hell for all eternity.”
Here are some of the details of everything bad about the ball according to the North Carolina Policy Watch:
· The end of pre-registration for 16 & 17 year olds;
· A ban on paid voter registration drives;
· Elimination of same day voter registration;
· A provision allowing voters to be challenged by any registered voter of the county in which they vote rather than just their precinct;
· A week sliced off Early Voting;
· Elimination of straight party ticket voting;
· A provision weakening disclosure requirements for ”independent expenditure” committees;
· Authorization of vigilante poll observers, lots of them, with expanded range of interference;
· An expansion of the scope of who may examine registration records and challenge voters;
· A repeal of out-of-precinct voting; and
· A repeal of the current mandate for high-school registration drives.
“We will see long lines, many citizens turned away and not allowed to vote, more provisional ballots cast but many fewer counting, vigilante observers at the polling place and all disproportionately impacting black voters,” says Anita Earls, executive director of the Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice and a former deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Clinton administration. “This new law revives everything we have fought against for the past ten years and eliminates everything we fought for.”
The legislation should be a wake-up call for Congress to get serious about resurrecting the Voting Rights Act and passing federal election reform. Six Southern states have passed or implemented new voting restrictions since the Supreme Court’s recent decision invalidating Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which will probably go down in history as one of the worst rulings in the past century.
But these desperate attempts will not stop the march of justice and democracy to assure that voting rights are available to all Americans. It continues to be a long struggle as voting rights suppression continues in various states, but I believe that democracy will ultimately prevail as it has over the past years, but that’s just my take.
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