Within hours of Gov. Pat McCrory signing a new voter registration and identification law, a legal challenge had been filed. The governor quietly signed into law the 57 pages of voter restrictions on Monday. On Tuesday, The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the law.
We hope the lawsuit is successful, because while polling has consistently shown that North Carolinians favor requiring voters to show identification in order to vote, this particular bill simply goes too far. In fact, a Public Policy Polling poll indicates that 50 percent of North Carolinians oppose this bill and only 39 percent support it. In the words of the North Carolina NAACP, “This Anti-Voting Rights Bill tramples on the blood of our martyrs, desecrates the graves of freedom fighters … to suppress the civil rights of black people in North Carolina and secure power through manipulation of the electorate are the ultimate crimes against democracy, driven by extremists in our state.”
Under the guise of solving problems that lawmakers claim “go undetected,” in addition to requiring a specific ID at the poll, this bill ends same-day registration, limits early voting, allows poll observers, undoes public financing and disallows pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds. On its face, the bill appears to be geared toward simply suppressing the vote. In spite of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning sections of the Voting Rights Act, critics of the bill expect the VRA will prove to be the undoing of this voter-suppression effort.
The lawsuit filed on Tuesday seeks to stop North Carolina from enacting provisions of the law that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration and prohibit “out-of-precinct” voting. The suit argues these provisions “would unduly burden the right to vote and discriminate against African-American voters, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
Information provided by ACLU indicates that during the 2012 election, 2.5 million ballots were cast during the early voting period, representing more than half the total electorate. More than 70 percent of African-American voters used early voting during the 2008 and 2012 general elections.
Early voting is particularly critical for low-income voters, who are more likely to have hourly-wage jobs that don’t afford them the time to get to the polls on Election Day or during common work hours. Poverty in North Carolina is higher among African-Americans, meaning a reduction in early voting opportunities will disproportionately impact voters of color.
With same-day registration, North Carolinians could register or update registration information and vote, in one trip to an early voting site. Again, the ACLU states African-Americans disproportionately relied on same-day registration in recent elections.