Intent of the Law: North Carolina in Voting Rights Crisis

One of the really big stories being smothered by the government shutdown is the showdown looming in North Carolina over voting rights or, rather, now, the lack thereof. The Justice Department’s suits against North Carolina come after a landmark Supreme court case ruling from an Alabama case which removed stipulations within the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The North Carolina law is one of several enacted in Republican-governed states imposing new mandates on voting. The GOP argues that the changes are needed to fight voter fraud. Democrats assert that the laws are intended to make it harder for blacks and other voters who are likely to vote for Democratic candidates to cast their ballots.?The Department of Justice (DOJ) expectas to show that these new statutes are intended to do the latter and have nothing to do with the former. These new laws would put new restrictions on voting by:

  • ?Reducing early voting days
  • Eliminating same-day registration during the early-voting period
  • Imposing a restrictive photo-identification requirement for in-person voting.

The DOJ’s ?position here is to stop this wrong precedent that could and most likely will cause mass changes in voting rights not only throughout the Southern states, but the entire country as well. The key to this action is the term intentional. The DOJ’s position that these new enactments are intended to disenfranchise certain segments of the voting public is in fact not mincing words: “Discriminate”. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a recent press conference that “these changes would contract the electorate and result in unequal access to the participation in the political process on account of race.” He went on to point out that 70% of the minority community took part in the early voting period and the actions of the Republican held legislature shrink the access to the process and is not in keeping with true American principle.

In response,?Republican Governor Pat McCrory stated:

“Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed (a common decongestant) require photo ID, and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote. I believe that North Carolina is in the mainstream on this issue, and it’s the Justice Department that’s working in the fringes.”

North Carolina voter turnout both in 2008 and 2012 were well above the national averages which indicates to this writer that the Tarheel state could go from Red to Blue and that removing mechanism that 70% of that turnout took advantage of is very troubling to say the least. The Justice Department has had issues in cases where civil rights violations may exist since ?certain provisions in the original Voting ?Rights of 1965 ?have been invalidated by the Supreme Court.

However, even with these invalidation the State of North Carolina has big problems with this legislation.?Voting Rights Act’s Section 2, which prohibits state voting practices or procedures that discriminate by race. Under that section, the federal government will have to prove that discrimination was both the intent behind the North Carolina law and its effect.

In closing, I think solutions to problems is the real goal we must focus on here. As Progressives we cannot rely on the courts, lawsuits, and common sense legislation to be the rule. We must take steps to get people who fall into these areas in which this regressive legislation was enacted to affect and in effect get them properly registered and in compliance no matter the indifference this process might impose on the ones affected. Progressive Liberal Americans have shown throughout their history to be over comers and ” get it done” spirits and with the 2014 elections on the near horizon the time to start is right now.

Edited/Published by: SB