Minority Voter Suppression In North Carolina Witnessed Firsthand

VOTE (1)

It is harder to vote in North Carolina these days. On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court, in Shelby v. Holder, gutted a landmark provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A majority of the justices struck down Article 5 of the Act, which had required federal preapproval of changes to voting practices in southern states. Eviscerating Article 5 effectively halted its protections and set the stage for sweeping efforts to disenfranchise minorities, women, the elderly and students. Six weeks later, emboldened by the Court’s ruling, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the nation’s most restrictive voting law all in the name of “preventing voter fraud.”

Lawsuits challenging the law have been filed by various organizations including the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. The ACLU and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice sought to have certain provisions of the law stayed until the trial scheduled for summer of 2015. The request for a stay was denied at the district court level, but the district court’s decision was reversed by a three judge panel at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. On October 8, 2014, the Supreme Court struck down the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that had stayed many of the 2013 North Carolina’s laws restrictions thus instituting widespread voter suppression.

Republican United States Senate candidate and North Carolina Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, along with North Carolina Senate president pro tem, Republican Phil Berger, Sr., led the charge to pass this restrictive and discriminatory legislation. Tillis, Berger and their supporters claim “voter fraud” is an issue in North Carolina; yet there is no evidence to support that claim. The real reason is more pernicious: barriers to vote keep heavily democratic groups, minorities (African-Americans and Hispanics in particular), women and college students from voting. If you cannot win on the issues, then control who votes.

The law’s restrictions are as follows: no same day voter registration; preregistration during early voting for 16 and 17-year-olds was eliminated; it shortens early voting by one week; out-of-precinct provisional voting was eliminated; and counties cannot extend polling place hours by one hour on Election Day in extraordinary circumstances (long lines). Most importantly, the law now permits anyone registered in the country to challenge a voter; previously the challenger needed to be registered to vote in the same precinct as the person he or she was challenging. Starting in 2016, ID will be required to vote. There are six acceptable forms of ID: 1) an unexpired North Carolina Driver’s License, 2) United States Passport, 3) a Veterans Identification Card, 4) an unexpired North Carolina Identification Card, 5) a United States Military Identification Card and 6) Tribal Identification Card. All of these forms of ID cost money and are tantamount to a ‘poll tax,’ which the Constitution forbids.

The one documented case of voter fraud in North Carolina involved an absentee ballot. Historically absentee ballots are heavily Republican. If voter fraud were really an issue, absentee ballots would have been addressed more extensively in the legislation. Republicans ignore this clear contradiction and choose to make up stories about how “possible non-citizens” and “people are admitting to voter fraud” in an attempt to ride a wave of bigotry and xenophobia to victory.

On October 8th, when the Supreme Court lifted the stay on North Carolina’s law, it gave no explanation, but Justice Ginsberg offered a scathing dissent, echoing the Fourth Circuit’s majority opinion. According to a www.pbs.org article from October 9th, Justice Ginsberg argued eliminating same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting risked significantly reducing opportunities for black voters, likely in violation of the Voting Rights Act; and, Justice Ginsberg writes, “I would not displace that record-based reasoned judgment.” Proponents of the law argued changing the law this close to the election would create mass confusion, but possible confusion is a spurious explanation for voter suppression. Of course, Americans for Prosperity sent out a mailer with misinformation, but Republicans ignore this real confusion.

The law has a disproportionate effect on African-Americans because, according to an October 26, 2014, article on www.msnbc.com, they make up 41% of voters who use same day registration. In addition, African-Americans cast nearly a third of out-of-precinct votes despite of making up only 22% of the population.

I witnessed the inequities of the law firsthand during the first day of early voting in North Carolina on Thursday, October 23rd. I voted in Winston-Salem at the Forsyth County Government Center. Several African-American voters told me they were told by people outside the polling place that it would take two hours to vote. I, a clearly upper-middle-class white man, was told forty-five minutes to an hour; it took fifty-five minutes. I have heard other similar stories of purposeful misinformation given to minority voters from through out the state.

In Boone, North Carolina, the Board of Elections tried to move a polling site located at Appalachian State University. The polling site draws primarily college students, and most of those students vote for Democrats. The Board’s efforts proved unsuccessful as a local Superior Court judge ruled the polling place must stay at Appalachian State, but do not be surprised if Tillis, Berger and others in the final days before the election file another frivolous lawsuit to keep college students from voting.

What the future holds for voting in North Carolina is unknown. What is known is that the damaging and chilling effects of this law will be felt for decades, even if the law is overturned this summer. Attempts to disenfranchise specific groups of voters will undoubtedly suppress voting in these communities for many generations.

Michael is a lawyer in North Carolina. Follow him on Twitter @slnc01 and on his blog at southernlawyernc.blogspot.com.

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71 Replies to “Minority Voter Suppression In North Carolina Witnessed Firsthand”

  1. I am an American living in Canada now. I had to try 4 TIMES to get my absentee ballot. I went to the voter abroad dot org site, wrote to MD a month ago to get my ballot, they sent me a duplicate voter card instead. Tried again and again. On the 4th time the abesentee ballot was hidden in a site.

    My alternative was to sent in a write- in ballot.

    6 years ago I had to go to the US embassy to register to vote. There was no phone number to set up appointments. You had to e mail them, they emailed you back with a date. It was quite the fortress of an embassy. I did this MONTHS in advance so my ballot would be valid.

    Message is: DON’T GIVE UP. This is exactly what they want you to do.

  2. What you do is vote the bigots O-U-T!! Organize, GOTV. and get African-Americans to votd, instead of staying home! Shame on anybody of African ancestry just stays home and then whines and complains about how the system works!
    Medgar Evers, MLK, and all the rest must be spinning in their graves at the number of African-Americans that stay home on election day instead of voting! They
    lost their lives so that they could vote!
    Vote the racists out of office on both the State and Federal level. Blacks need to exert their power. They may not know they have the power, but they do. Use it.

  3. This has been a battle from day one and believe me people have been trying to get it through blacks that it is important for them to vote. At the same time we have to remember that fear goes along with that too, it is still the story about people being killed or losing their jobs, children getting hurt if they vote and some people no matter what we think are just not that strong. Although the list is getting longer now with police killing unarmed black men and beating blacks more and more for no reason this generations is beginning to see to see that is top to fight back. They don’t like the MLK did so they are doing it differently and that is the dangerouly part, they will protest more violently the more the republicans keep trying to change the voting laws. The more changing they do the do, the more angry the crowd is going to get andit will take the president and other strong leaders to bring this country back together again.

  4. “What the future holds for voting in North Carolina is unknown.”
    Wrong.
    As long as Art Pope owns the RWNJ legislature, minority voting rights will be compromised.
    This is fact.

  5. The supreme court has verified that minorities are too stupid to get an ID. That is not intimidation that is fact. Need an ID to get, welfare checks, cash a check, get a telephone, get a credit card, get free phone service, get food stamps. etc. You tell me what I missed.

  6. Well bigot, let me tell you what you missed.

    Since you are entirely too stupid to understand the situation, here it is.

    Its not the ID that’s the problem. Its the gop closing polls, shortening hours and days for voting, its restricting which ID’s can be used and people being forced to have to pay for them(illegal). Its moving polls away from colleges where student vote Democrat. There is much more. Since you are one of the people verified by the court as being too stupid to understand anything, I suggest you do some research. Copy and pasting an old pile of garbage shows your lack of education

  7. Bigot, I have never shown an ID to get either my landline or my cell phone. I never showed an ID to get a credit card. Welfare checks are sent to your bank account or in the form of a debit card.

    Also, you dont need a comma after get. “Need an ID to get, ”

    How do you know you need an ID to get a free phone or food stamps? You are on the govt tit arnt you

  8. gutted the Voting Rights Act?

    nothing about the Act said that restrictions on States were permanent.

    in fact, they’re an anachronism. suggesting there is racial animous affecting the right to vote in 2014 is absurd.

  9. Certain members of the Supreme Court need to be required to exchange their black robes for white ones. Their racial preferences and biases should be reflected in their wardrobe on the bench.

  10. The early voting and absentee ballots combined shows that the African-American voters have increased their votes in this midterm dramatically compared to 2010. It’s also true that women who are sick of Thom Tills and his draconian stance on women’s rights are also voting early in large numbers. Women made up 55% of the early voters here in North Carolina as of Friday. The results of the last day of early voting (yesterday) are not in yet, but in spite of a cold, windy, and rainy day, lines were long outside of the polling places, and people did not give up.

  11. The writer of this article needs to stop the hysterics and stop inciting anger over fictional “voter suppression.” For crying out loud, his example is a black person saying they were told the wait would be longer than a white person was told? Really? That’s not voter suppression, that’s anecdotal evidence of an inefficient election system. If election officials were on the ball, there wouldn’t be any wait to speak of. At all. Black or white. And when push comes to shove, a good citizen will wait in the line no matter how long it is. A bad citizen will walk away complaining about the line.

  12. Well, Bullshxxicus, I see absolutely no Jim Crow in these perfectly reasonable voting regulations. Why are you keeping the bad practices from us?

  13. Shoot, my white husband went to vote yesterday morning. He was told it would take 2 1/2 hours so he left. I’m going to have to inform him that he was abused and disenfranchised.

    Darn, we had no idea. [WINK]

  14. Maryland is a democratic/progressive bastion, I find it hard to believe they make it hard to vote. The only people that Maryland gives a hard time to is soldiers that are overseas.

  15. ” and counties cannot extend polling place hours by one hour on Election Day in extraordinary circumstances (long lines). ”
    There is no need to extend voting hours. If a voter is in line when the ‘polls are closed announcement’ is made they will be allowed to vote JUST AS THEY were when democrats controlled the NC voting laws.

  16. “All of these forms of ID cost money and are tantamount to a ‘poll tax,’ which the Constitution forbids.”

    DMV offers ID cards for those customers who require a photo ID, but do not require a Driver’s License. There is no fee for a Voter ID card

    http://www.ncdot.gov/dmv/driver/id/

  17. It’s encouraging that so many people are exercising their constitutional right to vote. One person, one vote.

    It’s our greatest strength and what makes America exemplary.

  18. Oh, Like the BLACK supreme Court justice who actually HAS seen voter suppression in his lifetime- and finds no problem with Voter ID. Especially when provided for FREE and roving vans went to neighborhoods to make it even easier to get?

  19. Its so funny you have no idea what the voter ID issues are. And yet you have no problem making a fool of yourself

    Lets see your credible links that Vans went around in NC to give people ID’s. You and I know its a lie, but others might not

  20. Good Lord, Shiva: you are so full of crap, one will need a hazmat suit to deal with it.
    !) the IDs are available for free.
    2) You could not get the bank account without photo ID. Minors who get accounts are tied to the parents- by tieir photo ID.
    3)All polls are open the same length of time. To imply anything else is ludicrous.

  21. Oh and BTW Mikeo, like you, that black justice is owned by the Koch brothers. Research it. He is not concerned if democrats can vote or not

  22. Thank you for proving you are a complete idiot and have no knowledge of state voting ID laws. And totally unable to back your statements up.

  23. Since the voting rights act of 1965 was mentioned, I have to point out that a higher percentage of Republicans voted for it’s passage than Democrats. Same is true about the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Don’t take my word for it, Google.

  24. What about the states that passed laws stating that no matter how long you’ve been in line, the polls close at a specified time? What about less voting machines in Democratic areas? What about saying ID that would get you anything else you need are not on the approved list? What about laws passed in some red states that allow right-wingers to harass people in line and challenge their eligibility to vote? You F**king RWs really piss me off, you are un-American to the core.

  25. You can’t get an ID without a birth certificate (which the county charges for), proof of a divorce (because of the name change)this document costs you, too, how do you get to where you need to get these documents — if you have no car, you have to take public transportation — gas for the car and fare for transportation. Take time off work (not all people can do this and may lose money there, too). Now this may not affect you, but it sure does affect poor people. But then, I’m sure that you don’t care if poor people vote. Election Day should be a federal holiday (probably on Friday) and should be open more days and longer hours to allow ALL people to vote in our (supposedly) democratic country.

  26. You’re all correct, it is partisan. When ID’s aren’t required, more people vote than are registered, especially in presidential elections…Did you folks all learn addition and subtraction? How about multiplication? The math is clear. Without ID requirements people who are unregistered vote (people who are not American citizens); and/or, people who are registered are voting multiple times in multiple precincts. That is the math of the situation. Progressive candidates have reason to be concerned. They stand to lose much of the “bonus vote” when picture ID’s listing precinct location are required.

  27. Did you learn reality? The ID itself is not the problem. The laws and rules that are being changed in minority and dem voting area to stifle their vote. Add in nice little things like the gop states trying to take polling centers off or away from near campus’s then saying a college ID is not good enough to be used to vote.

    Research the problem before you think you know something about it

    BOTH partys stand to lose with this system if applied across the board. Its not, the rules are changed in Minority area’s

  28. There is no fee for a Voter ID card in North Carolina.

    Requirements & Documents to Obtain a No-Fee Voter ID Card

    There is no fee charged for a North Carolina ID Card for an individual registered to vote in North Carolina who does not have acceptable photo identification under N.C. General Statute 163-166.13.

  29. I see…so you see the main-stream media as biased towards the right, unwilling to tell the people the real truth about those wascawy wepubwicans. Uh…right. We know where your reality is based.

  30. The author writes: “I witnessed the inequities of the law firsthand during the first day of early voting in North Carolina on Thursday, October 23rd. I voted in Winston-Salem at the Forsyth County Government Center. Several African-American voters told me they were told by people outside the polling place that it would take two hours to vote.”

    Um, that would be second hand, and as a lawyer, I’m sure you would recognize hearsay evidence. How about something a bit more concrete before you claim witnessing it firsthand?

    You also claim that voters are required to purchase a voter ID. Not true. You can get one for free from your DMV. It is called a “Free Voter ID”. How about that.

    If you are truly a lawyer, you surely aren’t a good one, if this is how you present facts.

  31. My party did lynching? LOL! thats hilarious and a long time ago.

    The fact that you have no concept of what is happening isnt my fault. Its yours.

  32. From the DMV in NC for FREE voter registration card:
    You must provide two documents from this category which provide your full name and date of birth. If you are unable to provide two forms of identification from the approved list of acceptable documents, DMV will review documents that you have in your possession to assist in verifying your identity. Documents that you may present as proof of age and identity, provided they include your full name (including your middle name), are listed in Table (1):

  33. The Ku Klux Klan‘s first incarnation was in 1866. On September 28, 1868, a mob of Democrats massacred nearly 300 African-Americans. The Klan was involved in a wave of 1,300 murders of Republican voters in 1868. The group was an offshoot of the Democrat Party.

  34. What is our point with this history lesson the question you should be asking but wont why do you teahadist have to suppress the vote

  35. And guess what. When Johnson signed the equakl rights act, those Dems became what is now known as Southern republicans and they are still as racist.

    Well? Are you still partying like its 1866?

  36. Top CBS, ABC, CNN execs all have relatives working as advisors for White House

    24 major journalists who have taken posts at senior levels in the Obama administration.

    http://nypost.com/2014/01/11/why-bridgegate-made-headlines-but-obamas-irs-scandal-didnt/

    In surveys going back decades, anywhere from 80% to 90% of Washington’s journalists say they vote Democratic.
    http://nypost.com/2014/01/11/why-bridgegate-made-headlines-but-obamas-irs-scandal-didnt/

    CBS News President and WH Official Tied to Benghazi Scandal Are Brothers

    Obama, Democrats got 88 percent of 2008 contributions by TV network execs, writers

  37. It’s true that Lyndon Johnson, who Johnson himself voted against anti-lynching laws and poll-tax repeals, shepherded the 1964 Civil Rights Act to passage. But who voted for it?

    Eighty percent of Republicans in the House voted aye as against 61 percent of Democrats.

    In the Senate, 82 percent of Republicans favored the law, but only 69 percent of Democrats.

    Among the Democrats voting nay were Albert Gore Sr., Robert Byrd and J. William Fulbright.

    The “solid south” Democratic voting pattern began to break down not in the 1960s in response to civil rights, but in the 1950s in response to economic development and the Cold War. The Republican gains came not from the most rural and “Deep South” regions, but rather from the newer cities and suburbs.
    *
    FYI:Eisenhower achieved Congressional passage of the first civil rights legislation in the 82 years following Reconstruction.

    The Senate at first refused to pass the bill, which included both voting rights and a provisio…

  38. What voter suppression? A request was made and you think that is a case of voter suppression?

    Unnamed people allegedly told the author that they were told by “people outside the polling place” that the wait would be longer than what some other unnamed person told him. Were they polling officials? What were their names? The author fails to tell us.

  39. And who were these people describing?
    “He looks and talks good for a b l a c k man” – Joe Biden
    *
    “A few years ago, he would be serving us coffee.” — Bill Clinton

    ” He’s a black candidate who could be successful thanks in part to his “light-skinned” appearance and speaking patterns “with no Ne-ro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” – Harry Reid

    I’ll give you a hint, he’s POTUS now.

  40. Jimmy Carter was my first vote Sport. I have voted D, R & I.

    I am an Independent who votes for the person, not the party.

    You were saying?

  41. You need to tell your progressive leadership. They are making their entire public argument based on the picture ID’s being the problem. They must not realize the enormity of the problem you describe.

  42. They do fight the rest of the crap. But this is at the state/county levels in red states where the Dems have no power

  43. After recently embarking on an educational assignment regarding the hotly debated topic of voter fraud, it has become very clear that as a nation, we may never be in agreement. What can be agreed upon is that each vote counts to get the edge in each of these categories. But that my depend on who’s vote you’re trying to get. To date, no one can demonstrate or provide compelling evidence that there is massive voter fraud, “Under Republican President George W. Bush, the U.S. Justice Department searched for voter fraud. But in the first three years of the program, just 26 people were convicted or pled guilty to illegal registration or voting. Out of 197,056,035 votes cast in the two federal elections held during that period, the rate of voter fraud was a miniscule 0.00000132 percent”! (

    Minnette Page 1)

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