Washington, D.C. — After improving its election access with common-sense tools like preregistration of high school students, same-day registration, increased early voting, and better rules for counting provisional ballots, North Carolina saw an 8 percent increase in voter participation in 2008—the largest increase in the country. In 2012, more than 40 percent of the voters who used same-day registration were African American, despite making up only 20 percent of the state’s voting age population, while 900,000 North Carolina citizens cast their ballots during the now-eliminated early voting week—70 percent of whom were African American.
Monday’s decision by Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Winston-Salem upholds the first voting restriction enacted after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder decision gutted the Voting Rights Act. North Carolina’s H.B. 589 combined an assortment of voter suppression tactics into the worst voter law in the nation, including ending provisions that allowed people to register and vote on the same day, a seven-day reduction in the early-voting period, ending preregistration, a provision that allows for the counting of provisional ballots cast outside voters’ home precincts, and the implementation of a strict photo ID requirement. CAP’s Director of Government and Democratic Reform Liz Kennedy has issued the following statement:
The attack on voting rights in North Carolina is a shameful attempt to curtail access to the ballot that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of African American voters in North Carolina. North Carolina’s voter suppression law is the biggest rollback in voting rights since the Voting Rights Act, which could have prevented exactly these sorts of racially discriminatory retrenchments had the Supreme Court not gutted the law. We condemn the federal court decision to uphold this voter suppression law that serves no legitimate purpose and significantly reduces opportunities for North Carolina’s citizens to vote. The same politicians who claim voter fraud is rampant when it is largely nonexistent have taken advantage of the weakening of the Voting Rights Act to manipulate voting laws to keep certain populations from voting and maintain the status quo that keeps them in power. These kinds of suppression tactics have been devastating to access and equality throughout American history, and it is deeply disturbing that they continue to threaten the integrity of our democracy today.
All eligible Americans deserve to cast a ballot that will be counted—including citizens of North Carolina with low incomes and transportation challenges, young people, and people of color—who particularly benefited from the provisions now done away with by the 2013 voter suppression bill. This anti-democratic attack cannot stand. It has already been appealed, and Americans need a Supreme Court at full strength to protect the constitutional rights of voters this year.
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