WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – On Monday, July 13, the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP will begin the full trial, in which it is challenging the state’s voter suppression law, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. This historic case argues that the measure, H.B. 589, violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by disproportionately burdening voters of color. The North Carolina NAACP – represented by the national racial justice organization Advancement Project, the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, as well as attorneys Irving Joyner and Adam Stein – is also challenging H.B. 589 under the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.
At the conclusion of the first day of testimony on July 13, the North Carolina NAACP and Forward Together Moral Movement will lead a mass march for voting rights at 5 p.m. from Corpening Plaza through downtown Winston-Salem. For details on the march, as well as a day-long series of voting rights teach-ins and a worship service the evening on July 12, visit july13marchforvotingrights.org.
“This is our Selma,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “North Carolina was the first state to pass a restrictive voting law after the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and it is the worst voter suppression law the country has seen since 1965. The people of North Carolina are standing up – in the courts and the streets – because we refuse to accept the revival of Jim Crow tactics used to block access to the ballot for African-American and Latino voters.”
H.B. 589 combines nearly every conceivable voter suppression tactic: shortens the early voting period by a full week, eliminates same-day registration, prohibits provisional ballots cast out of precinct from being counted, expands the ability to challenge voters, and eliminates a pre-registration program for 16- and 17-year olds, among other provisions.
The law also implements a strict photo ID requirement – though, due to changes to this provision that the legislature passed within weeks of the trial, the voter ID requirement will be argued at a later time. Despite the State’s last-minute changes to the voter ID provision, many North Carolinians will still be, and have already been, burdened by this requirement, including Maria Del Carmen Sanchez of Carrboro, N.C.
“I have been registered to vote in North Carolina for over 20 years and have multiple valid state IDs,” said Sanchez. “But because of different combinations of my given and married names, my IDs do not match my voter registration card. This is a problem many Latinas like me face because of differing naming customs, and now we are at risk of losing our vote. As I wait for voter ID’s day in court, I am hopeful that the other discriminatory parts of this law, like the elimination of same-day registration and out of precinct voting, will be struck down without delay.”
According to state data, the measures that lawmakers targeted and eliminated in H.B. 589 are used at a significantly higher rate by voters of color. In 2012, 70 percent of all African Americans in North Carolina used early voting, compared to 56 percent of the voting population overall. While African Americans make up about 22 percent of the state’s voting population, they account for 41 percent of voters who used same-day registration and about 30 percent of those who cast out-of-precinct ballots.
“We have a strong case against North Carolina’s voting law, showing not only that the measure is discriminatory, but that lawmakers knew it would harm voters of color and passed it anyway,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair. “Behind each statistic and legal argument, however, are the stories of real people whose voting rights have been assaulted. Our case is about these voters and ensuring that elections are free, fair and accessible for all.”
Photo: Rev. Barber, seen here at a march in Selma, Alabama, has called for a huge march in North Carolina at the start of the voting rights trial coming up there. | http://www.july13marchforvotingrights.org/