As the 50th anniversary of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech approaches on August 28th, North Carolina’s GOP Governor Pat McCrory just signed his party’s vile and regressive Voter ID Law — House Bill 589 — into law today and announced it on YouTube, of all places. If you can stomach watching this travesty, here’s the video:
Meanwhile, McCrory’s website triumphantly crows, “Governor McCrory Signs Popular Voter ID into Law,” and adds a salient quote from the governor:
“North Carolinians overwhelmingly support a common sense law that requires voters to present photo identification in order to cast a ballot. I am proud to sign this legislation into law. Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote.”
Never mind that almost anyone who’s ever had to dig around for ID while wrangling suitcases and kids at an airport, or presented their driver’s license to purchase cold medicine — cold medicine, for Pete’s sake — would agree that these so-called “common practices” are invasive, annoying, and downright silly. As for this “common sense law” enjoying popular support, the (NC) News Observer reports that — while many folks from the Tar Heel state do support voter IDs — other provisions, like shortening the early voting period and dropping straight-party voting, remain highly unpopular. Furthermore, Policy Mic adds that only 39 percent of NC voters support the law and 50 percent opposed it — down from the enthusiastic 66 percent support HB 589 enjoyed back in 2011.
McCrory continues burbling on his website:
“While some will try to make this seem to be controversial, the simple reality is that requiring voters to provide a photo ID when they vote is a common sense idea. This new law brings our state in line with a healthy majority of other states throughout the country. This common sense safeguard is common-place.”
Oh, so just because other states are trying to roll back the Voting Rights Act of 1965 back to Jim Crow-era levels, that makes it right? Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s make voting really hard for senior citizens, college students, and poor people as well. As my great grandmother would have said, “And if they all jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, you’d do it?” Those of us who have transportation and birth certificates (many seniors have no birth records) and had help getting that first driver’s license have no idea how huge of a hassle getting photo ID can be. But this isn’t just about photo IDs.
Here are 11 ways North Carolina’s HB 589 law will stop people from voting … and if you think Republicans wouldn’t love to do this in all 50 states, stop kidding yourself, lest you wind up eating (Jim) Crow:
- Require Photo IDs: Only driver’s licenses, state IDs, passports, and military IDs will be accepted. Student IDs will not.
- Shorten the early voting period: For people with transportation and work scheduling issues, truncating the early voting period can make things more complicated.
- Eliminate same-day voting registration: This especially hurts voters who’ve just turned 18 or who’ve just started college away from their home towns.
- End pre-registration: 17-year-olds can no longer register to vote ahead of time.
- End straight-ticket voting: This adds another layer of complexity for voters — either Democratic or Republican — who’ve been previously able to vote a straight party line.
- Illegalize paid voter registration drives: Lucy Zhou from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice writes that this is another way of obstructing voter registration drives financed and organized by third-party organizations like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote. Young people, seniors, and low-income people from under-served communities — who tend to vote Democratic — face the toughest barriers when it comes to voting and registering.
- Prohibit provisional voting: Would prevent someone who shows up at the wrong polling place from voting.
- Make voter challenging easier: The new law allows any registered voter to intimidate any other voter by challenging their eligibility to vote.
- Bar extended voting hours: Even if the lines are going around the block, the polls have to close at their appointed time.
- Increase voter confusion with overly complicated primary rules: It works something like this … If South Carolina holds its presidential primary before march 15th, then North Carolina has to move its presidential primary to the first Tuesday afterwards. This way, nobody’ll know when they’re supposed to vote. In some cases, this would force North Carolina to hold a state primary and a presidential primary … which would make voting harder for folks with transportation and mobility challenges.
- Give rich donors more influence: The new legislation also increases maximum contributions from individuals to $5,000; weakens disclosure requirements so candidates don’t have to endorse their campaign ads and groups don’t have to say who’s running the ad. Also removes public funding for appellate court judge elections.
Naturally, civil rights groups in North Carolina are up in arms about this. CBS News reports that on Monday, the Advancement Project called the so-called voting reforms “discriminatory” and filed a lawsuit with the North Carolina federal court in Greensboro. Penda Hair, co-director for the Advancement Project told reporters:
“Governor McCrory has transformed North Carolina from a state with one of the nation’s most progressive voting systems, where we saw some of the highest voter turnout rates of the last two presidential elections, into a state with the most draconian policies we’ve seen in decades, policies that harken back to the days of Jim Crow.”
A second suit was also launched in Greensboro by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the League of Women Voters, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Common Cause North Carolina, and the Unifour Onestop Collaborative. Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project spoke out against the disproportionate impact the law will have on black voters, while reminding us of 2012’s appalling voter repression efforts in the state of Florida:
“Eliminating a huge part of early voting will cut off voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of citizens. It will turn Election Day into a mess, shoving more voters into even longer lines. Florida similarly eliminated a week of early voting before the 2012 election, and we all know how that turned out – voters standing in line for hours, some having to wait until after the President’s acceptance speech to finally vote, and hundreds of thousands giving up in frustration. Those burdens fell disproportionately on African-American voters, and the same thing will happen in North Carolina. We should be making it easier for people to vote, not harder.”