Republicans figure out way around voter ID ruling

Republicans figure out way around voter ID ruling
September 15
07:15 2016



Last Thursday, the Republican-led state Board of Elections (BOE), met all day, and well into the night, putting the final touches on the early voting plans of 33 counties that could not come to agreement on either the number of sites or hours, or even if there would be Sunday voting allowed.

In Wake County, for instance, the state BOE, at the urging of the Democratic minority, expanded the number of early voting sites during the first seven days from just one to nine, because of 2012 calculations of roughly 10,000 a day.

In Mecklenburg County, 10 sites will now be open during the first seven days of early voting instead of just one because 15,000 voters a day are expected. The Republican majority on the local BOE wanted to open just one site to combat “fraud.”

But neither the N.C. NAACP or other civil rights advocates who successfully knocked down parts of the 2013 voter ID law in federal appellate court were pleased. As far as they were concerned, the July 29 U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against voter ID and other discriminatory parts of the law was clear – The Republican-led General Assembly targeted African-American voters with “surgical precision” to suppress their votes, which included cutting early voting days from 17 to 10, and not allowing Sunday “Souls to the Polls” voting.

The appellate court re-instituted the 17-day early voting period, but left the scheduling of hours, sites and Sunday voting up to the state.

In Forsyth County, all three BOE members concurred that there would be no Sunday voting, so the state board didn’t consider the issue for Winston-Salem early voting.

The state BOE last Thursday, in finalizing the early voting plans of 33 counties, decided to maintain only one Sunday of voting in Hoke, Richmond and Craven counties, though counties like New Hanover, which successfully voted on Sunday for the first time ever last March for the primaries, were denied the opportunity again by their own BOE, and the state.

‘The loss of Sunday voting was a blow,” Deborah Dicks Maxwell, the NAACP chairwoman in New Hanover County, told The Journal in Wilmington in a statement Sunday evening. “ I was informed that because we did not have Sunday voting in 2012, we were not considered this time. Someone died for our right to vote and we will exercise it,” Maxwell continued.

What is clear is that not allowing Sunday voting for the fall general election is in direct contradiction to the spirit of the July 29 U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling (later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court).

In that historic ruling, the appellate court wrote:

“African-Americans disproportionately used the first seven days of early voting. After receipt of this racial data, the General Assembly amended [the voter ID law] to eliminate the first week of early voting, shortening the total early voting period from seventeen to ten days. As a result, the law also eliminated one of two “souls to the polls” Sundays in which African-American churches provided transportation to voters.”

Still, top Republicans, like N.C. GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse, have been caught urging Republican-led local BOEs to fashion their early voting plans and schedules in a way that likely helps Republicans, including the elimination of Sunday voting where possible.

According to attorney Irving Joyner, chair of the N.C. NAACP Legal Redress Committee that joined in coalition with other civil rights attorneys to fight the voter ID law, the appellate court’s intent was that Sunday voting be re-instituted in counties where it had been struck down or limited.

“The SBOE had received this message several times,” Joyner said. “They were warned before last Thursday’s hearing, during that hearing and reminded after the session concluded. Because they were aware, some notable reversals in plans from several counties were achieved. As for the others, we are measuring the possible effects with the hours that were established. When you add them up, however, more hours are available for early voting during this election than ever before. While everyone did not get Sunday voting hours, there were more Saturday hours added to the total available hours.”

Bob Hall, executive director of the nonpartisan Democracy N.C., said the Republican leadership “…encouraged their members to get rid of Sunday voting where it existed before…”

Joyner’s remarks, along with published reports, strongly hint that civil rights advocates will be back in court to complain that the Republican-dominated state and several local BOEs ignored the spirit of the federal appellate court voter ID ruling in ignoring the need for Sunday voting in many counties with significant black populations.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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