Battle for Black Voters’ Rights Rages on in North Carolina

On Monday a preliminary injunction hearing will begin as minority leaders across the state fight to preserve the right to vote. 

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83559350-volunteer-william-clark-hands-out-i-voted-stickers-at
Volunteer William Clark hands out “I Voted” stickers at New Covenant ARP Church in Charlotte, N.C., on Election Day, Nov. 4, 2008.

Davis Turner/Getty Images

Midterm elections are right around the corner, and for the North Carolina NAACP and the Advancement Project, this month represents a do-or-die moment in what will be the last time to put an end to the sweeping voter-suppression law enacted in June 2013 before voting starts this year.

At an injunction hearing scheduled for Monday, the state NAACP plans to challenge the law by providing a detailed breakdown of how exactly it contributes to the disenfranchisement of African Americans and Latinos.

As the law, which is often dubbed the worst voter-suppression law in the country, stands now, it slices off a week of early voting, eliminates same-day voter registration as well as pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and authorizes poll observers to challenge people who show up to vote. It also requires a government-issued photo-ID card in order to vote ... but doesn’t allow student IDs, public-employee IDs or IDs issued by public assistance agencies. And that is just scratching the surface of what the law limits.

One of the attorneys on the case, Irving Joyner, explained how the specific blockades put up by the law target African Americans.

“For example, African Americans in North Carolina used same-day registration and early voting at higher rates than white voters,” he said. “In 2012, 70 percent of African Americans who voted used early voting; 34 percent of registered North Carolina voters who don’t have photo IDs are African Americans, despite comprising just 22 percent of the voting population.

“African Americans make up less than one quarter of the voting population in North Carolina, but cast nearly one third of the out-of-precinct ballots,” he continued. “The preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds in North Carolina, and the voter-registration drives at high schools that became a part of that, have been widely successful at getting young voters registered.”

Advancement Project Co-Director Penda Hair pointed out that highlighting facts such as these is all part of the plan to hopefully bring the law to an end.

“We want to ensure that these voters’ stories can be heard now because so much is at stake if the law is not stopped. At the hearing, we will show indisputable evidence that North Carolina voting law has a disparate impact on voters of color and will abridge the right to vote for people across the state,” Hair said during a press call Tuesday regarding the hearing.

Although the NAACP, along with other groups such as the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, has filed lawsuits, those cases won’t go to full trial until 2015. The hope with Monday’s hearing is to put a speed bump in the way of the law before it has the chance to go into full effect with the midterm election.

“We move our protests to courts and in the fall we will move our protest to the polls as well,” the Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said during Tuesday’s call. “We cannot stand by while the franchise of voting is under attack in such a tremendous way.”

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