From Bob Hall, Executive Director, Democracy North Carolina
September 30, 2013
Democracy North Carolina applauds the decision of the US Department of Justice to file suit against key provisions of North Carolina’s new anti-voter law, HB-589. We welcome a vigorous challenge to a law designed to push away certain voters and rig the election system to benefit incumbent politicians.
North Carolina has a sad history of voter suppression, stemming from the Jim Crow laws adopted by Democrats over 100 years ago that included the poll tax, literacy tests and other measures aimed at pushing away African Americans and low-income white voters. As a result of those laws and intimidating practices, North Carolina ranked in the bottom 12 states for voter turnout throughout the entire Twentieth Century.
Since 2000, voter participation has finally begun to increase for all parties and demographic groups, thanks to Early Voting, Same-Day Registration, and other measures that make voting more accessible yet secure. In 2008, North Carolina climbed to 22nd among the 50 states for voter turnout among eligible citizens, and in 2012 we ranked 11th, a modern record.
Republican lawmakers had clear evidence that their proposals would harm African American voters more than white voters, yet they intentionally chose to adopt those provisions. They had no evidence of significant fraud caused by voter impersonation or out-of-precinct voting, yet they imposed new restrictions anyway. In fact, they had more evidence of fraud by mail-in absentee voting, a method used by more Republicans than Democrats, yet HB-589 makes access to absentee ballots easier through mass mailings and other techniques.
African Americans were 22% of registered voters in 2012, but they cast only 9% of the mail-in absentee ballots in the general election. On the other hand, they cast 29% of the in-person Early Voting ballots, 34% of the Same-Day Registration ballots for new voters in a county, 45% of the ballots by voters using SDR to update their registration, 30% of the out-of-precinct ballots cast on Election Day, and 43% of the ballots cast on the now eliminated first Sunday of Early Voting.
In March 2013, when African Americans had become 23% of registered voters, an analysis by the State Board of Elections showed that 318,600 registered voters did not appear to have a DMV license or NC photo ID – and 34% of that number are African Americans. Nevertheless, Republican lawmakers adopted the strictest photo ID requirement in the nation for in-person (not mail-in) voters. They refused to accept student IDs from public colleges or accept affidavit ballots from a voter who lacks the ID, as do other states with a photo ID requirement. Most North Carolinians think a photo requirement makes sense, but by a 70% super-majority they also think a voter without the ID should not be made to come back – let them use an affidavit ballot with a birth date or SSN that can be verified. See: http://www.democracy-nc.org/downloads/SurveyUSALWVPoll2013.pdf.