by Chris Fitzsimon
Governor Pat McCrory and other supporters of the sweeping voter suppression law passed by the General Assembly this summer are working hard to make sure people don’t really understand how regressive and anti-democratic the law is.
They’d rather people not realize that their unmistakable goal is to make it more difficult for people to vote who are not likely to support McCrory and his far-right Republican colleagues.
Many of those voters are African-American. That’s a major reason why the U.S. Department of Justice is challenging the law in court, because the voters affected by the myriad of changes in the law are disproportionately people of color — and not just the requirement that voters show a valid government-issued photo ID at the polls.
McCrory responded to news of the lawsuit by saying that the Justice Department has overreached and that many states already had voter ID laws on the books.
McCrory loves to talk about voter ID and incessantly reminds us that you need an ID to buy Sudafed, though there’s never been a constitutional right to buy cold medicine.
But he never talks about the other provisions in the law, the end to same-day registration at early voting sites, the reduction in the number of days for early voting, the elimination of pre-registration for 16 and 17-year olds, and not allowing college students to use their school ID at the polls.
That’s not an accident. McCrory and his supporters know that only the concept of voter ID is popular with voters–as long as you don’t explain it.
The Pope-Civitas Institute recently released a survey recently claiming to show that almost two-thirds of independent voters support the “new election law that requires voters to show a valid photo ID before casting their ballot.”
But as Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina points out, 70 percent of voters also support allowing voters who forget their ID or don’t have one to cast a ballot anyway if they can provide a Social Security number than can be verified before their ballot is counted.
North Carolina’s new law does not include mechanisms like that for voters without IDs to cast a ballot. Most states with voter ID laws do.
That makes North Carolina’s new ID provision one of the strictest in the country, something else McCrory never admits. As Hall aptly puts it, “voter photo ID is a slogan, not a policy.” And North Carolina’s new policy is extreme.
Then there are all the other provisions that make it harder for certain people to participate in the political process.
Not too long ago there seemed to be a consensus that the more people who voted, the better it was for our democracy. It was part of the collective response to the shameful Jim Crow era, where barriers were erected to make it almost impossible for certain segments of the population to vote.
In recent years, North Carolina made big strides in increasing voter participation by passing laws, often with bipartisan support, that made it more convenient for people to register and to cast their ballot.
The result was more voters and a healthier democracy with virtually no evidence of significant voter fraud that influenced the outcome of elections.
But McCrory and his Republican colleagues want to manipulate the laws and suppress the vote for their own partisan political gain.
That fact was crudely brought home recently on the Daily Show when a Buncombe County Republican official said the new elections law would “kick Democrats in the butt.”
A Republican legislator in Pennsylvania said last year the voter ID bill there would allow Mitt Romney to win the state in the presidential election.
So much for the charade about restoring integrity to elections.
This offensive law is simply about suppressing the vote of people who don’t agree with the radical direction that McCrory and his General Assembly colleagues are taking North Carolina.
There’s no integrity in that and they know it. That’s why they are working so hard to mislead us about the law and their intentions when they passed it.
—Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch, an independent project of the N.C. Justice Center.