With Republicans adding the governor’s mansion last fall to their control, on top of the North Carolina Legislature, Riggs and other civil rights activists have counted on protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act to prevent GOP geographical empire-building through redistricting. Nine states and parts of six others, including 40 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, were covered by a provision of the legislation that required federal approval of any changes in election laws.
But a U.S. Supreme Court decision Tuesday gutted the law, striking down the so-called preclearance provisions, and Republican leaders here already are revving up to push through voting procedure changes.
The GOP chairman of the state Senate rules committee, Sen. Tom Apodaca, said he would move quickly to pass a voter ID law that Republicans say would bolster the integrity of the balloting process. GOP leaders also began engineering an end to the state’s early voting, Sunday voting and same-day registration provisions, all popular with black voters. Civil rights groups say the moves are designed to restrict poll access by blacks, who vote reliably Democratic.
The moves are only the first indication that the ruling will have “a demonstrably negative impact on voters of color,” said (Allison) Riggs, staff attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The group already has a 2-year-old lawsuit pending that alleges racial discrimination in the 1st District and three dozen other North Carolina districts redrawn by Republicans.
Odd. Racial discrimination lawsuits? I thought the Supreme Court had ruled that racism had come to an end in the South?
Apodaca said the previous requirements for federal preclearance caused “legal headaches” in passing such measures as voter ID in response to legitimate concerns over voter fraud. It’s time, he told reporters, to bring the Voting Rights Act “into this century, not the last century.”
Yeah, those pesky legal headaches. How shocking that people don’t want their rights taken from them. The gall.
And I’m sure in Mr. Apodaca’s mind, “this century” implies the 19th.
The new moves by state officials to adopt ID requirements and other changes in the voting laws can have a critical impact on black voting strength, civil rights leaders say. Blacks represented 22% of North Carolina’s registered voters in 2012 but accounted for 34% of voters without a driver’s license or state-issued ID this year, according to Democracy North Carolina, a liberal advocacy group. The group says blacks in 2012 made up 29% of early voters and 34% of same-day registration voters.
Since taking control in North Carolina, Republicans have passed or proposed legislation that Democrats say discriminates against minorities. This month, Republicans repealed the Racial Justice Act, passed by a Democratic Legislature and governor. The act allowed death row inmates to be re-sentenced to life in prison without parole if they proved racial discrimination in jury selection or sentencing.
Neither Sen. Apodaca nor the North Carolina Republican Party responded to requests for comment. Susan Myrick, a policy analyst with the Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank in Raleigh, said the court was correct in eliminating the preclearance section. She said it forced local officials to “go hat in hand in Washington, begging for permission” when they needed to change something as simple as moving a polling place or revising a ballot.
“Its time was over,” she said.