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NC Republicans successful in attack on democracy

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Undermining another of society's great equalizers

When you enter the voting booth, you are as equal as any man or woman, no matter your race or class or gender or sexual orientation.

Naturally, that kind of equality does not sit well with the immoral few who act as though they now rule North Carolina.

On Thursday, July 25, 2013, the state legislature adopted a host of changes to election law that many observers, including The Nation, have called "the worst voter suppression law" since Jim Crow.

Late last night, the 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 cast a ballot (no student IDs, no public employee IDs, etc.), 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 cuts 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. African-Americans are 23 percent of registered voters in the state, 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.

And that’s just the start of it. In short, the bill eliminates practically everything that encourages people to vote in North Carolina, replaced by unnecessary and burdensome new restrictions. At the same time, the bill expands the influence of unregulated corporate influence in state elections. Just what our democracy needs—more money and less voting!

On that last point, the new law raises the cap on individual campaign contributions and - more worrisome - allows political parties to accept unlimited corporate contributions!

Art Pope and the Koch brothers no longer need to funnel their money through a third-party and be restrained by pesky restrictions that bar coordination with campaigns. They can now buy their own political party, outright.

Durham Rep. Mickey Michaux, who grew up in Jim Crow North Carolina, called the bill an "abomination".

“I want you to understand what this bill means to people. We have fought for, died for and struggled for our right to vote,” Michaux told the Republican majority. "You can take these 57 pages of abomination and confine them to the streets of hell for all eternity."

By the way, though the original legislation focused on Voter ID, the Senate's re-write was so sweeping that just three pages of those 57 pages had anything to do with Voter ID, which revealed Republican leaders' true intent, said Bob Hall with the elections watchdog Democracy North Carolina:

It is breathtaking in scope and radical in purpose. It makes the most sweeping changes to the core parts of our state’s election process in decades. In 57 pages, it redefines and restricts who can vote, where, when and how, while also allowing more money to pour into our elections.

It seems fitting that the bill is being rammed through in the final days of the session. The substance and process of this legislation demonstrates a complete disrespect of honest voters. It authorizes vigilante partisan “observers” to roam through polling places and creates new barriers at every turn. The bill will drive more people away from the polling booth, either to not vote at all or to use the mail-in absentee process, which we already know if where most fraud occurs.

This is elitist politics at its worse – political bullies rigging the election process for their own narrow interests.  -- Bob Hall, 7/23/2013

By the numbers, even the Voter ID provision was unnecessary. In the last 12 years, North Carolinians have cast 21 million votes. In the same 12 years, there has been only 1 case of voter impersonation according to the State Board of Elections. 12 years, 21 million votes, 1 case of voter impersonation. Proponents of Voter ID have never been able to prove it's more than a solution in search of a problem.

The voter suppression bill's provisions (H/T NC 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 making the state’s presidential primary date a function of the primary date in South Carolina
  • A provision calling for a study (rather than a mandate) of electronic candidate filing
  • An increase in the maximum campaign contribution to $5,000 (the limit will continue to increase every two years with the Consumer Price Index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • 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
  • A repeal of the current mandate for high-school registration drives
  • Elimination of flexibility in opening early voting sites at different hours within a county
  • A provision making it more difficult to add satellite polling sites for the elderly or voters with disabilities
  • New limits on who can assist a voter adjudicated to be incompetent by court
  • The repeal of three public financing programs
  • The repeal of disclosure requirements under “candidate specific communications.”

Writing for NC Policy Watch, Rob Schofield called the parade of horribles listed above a "sad, dark moment in state history" by a political party in power that will stop at nothing to avoid being held accountable by the people for devastating cuts to public education, cruel cuts to unemployment benefits, the theft of municipal water supplies and airports, severe restrictions on women's health care options, the rejection of Medicaid coverage for 500,000 people - many of them children, and the slashing of taxes on the rich and big businesses paid for by the working poor and the middle class.

Now, like thieves covering their tracks, they’re doing everything in their power (in every way they can imagine) to make sure they’re not caught or punished for their actions by limiting the opportunity of voters who might disapprove.

It is a sad and dark moment in state history. Let’s hope caring and thinking people act to reject this treacherous deed as forcefully and rapidly as possible. -- Rob Schofield, 7/23/2013

Remember these injustices in November 2014, 2016, and beyond

Speaking at press conference at the state legislative building on Wednesday, NC State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan said, "The citizens of North Carolina will not be bullied.

"We will not be silenced. No matter what they do, we will make our voices heard and our votes count.

"In every corner of this state, we will organize, and we will mobilize. We will agitate, and we will demonstrate. And we will keep the memory of these injustices alive for November 2014, 2016, and beyond.

"You see, any restrictions they put on voting are temporary. These district lines they are hiding behind are temporary.

"The only things permanent are the pursuit of justice and the power of the people. And there is no amount of legislation and there is no amount of Art Pope's money that can change that.

"Legislators may be drunk on power now, but I hope they have some aspirin handy because they're gonna have a heck of a hangover when they realize their perceived power is temporary.

"The power rests with the people, and our power increases exponentially with our solidarity." -- MaryBe McMillan, 7/24/2013

Watch the video of MaryBe McMillan's remarks (begins at 29 minutes, 30 seconds).