Voting rights victory for N.C.

Rev. Mendez

Voting rights victory for N.C.
May 18
08:00 2017

Robert Willett /The News & Observer via AP

Pastor Mendez celebrates High Court voter ID decision



RALEIGH —  “Oh, I’m excited,” were the words exclaimed by the Rev. Dr. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston Salem, while visiting Davie Street Presbyterian Church in Raleigh Monday morning to see the N.C. NAACP president, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, announce his stepping down.

Mendez was reacting to news that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overrule the 2016 decision by the U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals to strike down North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law. The N.C.

NAACP sued then Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the voter ID law, and the N.C. Republican-led Legislature, which passed HB 589, accusing them of suppressing the black vote with unconstitutional voting restrictions.

“We were plaintiffs in the lawsuit,” Rev. Mendez explained, recalling the weeklong hearings in federal court in Winston-Salem in 2015.  Mendez was among those quoted in court papers filed in the lawsuit. “So it’s a very big day for us. We’re excited.”

In its July 2016 decision, the U.S. Fourth Circuit agreed that voter suppression was exactly what the Republican lawmakers were up to, stating that the GOP targeted the black vote “with surgical precision.”

Republican leaders in the legislature didn’t like that ruling, and appealed it to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Gov. Roy Cooper and new state Attorney General Josh Stein, both Democrats, asked the High Court to withdraw the appeal from the GOP. Republicans objected, and asked Chief Justice John Roberts to intervene in January.

Since then, there wasn’t even word whether Roberts and the rest of the court would even hear the GOP appeal, until Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it would not.

A packed sanctuary at Davie Street Presbyterian joined Rev. Mendez cheering at the news.

The outgoing N.C. NAACP president, Rev. Barber was thankful, but resolute in his statement that justice had been done again by the courts.

“Today we experienced a victory for justice that is unimaginably important for African Americans, Latinos, all North Carolinians, and the nation” said Rev. Barber. “The highest court in the land has rejected the N.C. General Assembly’s improper efforts to inject cynical politics into the Supreme Court’s docket, and instead embraced the sound judgment of the Fourth Circuit, which found that this General Assembly enacted voting laws with discriminatory intent. The Court’s critical rejection today of the N.C. General Assembly’s leadership’s position tells the people of North Carolina and across the country that the right to vote unencumbered by expansive restrictions or by racist politicians or racist policies is fundamental, and that under the laws of the land, it will be upheld.”

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper told reporters, “When are [Republican lawmakers] going to learn that you just can’t run roughshod over the Constitution?”

The High Court ruling was a top national headline in the New York Times, Washington Post and CBS News as well.

N.C. Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.-1) joined in on wagging a knowing finger at the Republicans who insisted that despite evidence to the contrary, voter photo ID and the long list of restrictions that went with it, kept the electoral system honest.

“Today, the Supreme Court rightly refused to hear the appeal of a law that I have long said discriminates against African-American voters,” Rep. Butterfield said in a statement. “I hope this is finally the end to one of the most undemocratic and disgraceful voter ID laws in the country.”

But Republicans saw it differently.

“Republicans will continue to fight for common sense and constitutional voter ID measures, similar to what many other states already have,” State Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes said in a statement, noting that the High Court didn’t rule, but just decided not to hear the GOP appeal. “While Gov. Cooper and Attorney General Stein have stymied voter ID for now, they will ultimately lose in their efforts to block North Carolina citizens from having these protections.”

But attorney Irv Joyner, chairman of the N.C. NAACP Legal Redress Committee, countered, “ …[I]t is clear that the factual merits of this case were already decided by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the N.C. General Assembly did not present any evidence in court or anywhere else which contradicts the decision that HB 589 was designed to negatively impact African-Americans and other racial minorities,” Joyner stated.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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