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Voter Suppression is a Badder, Broader, More Bigoted Problem Than Just This Guy

Julie Ebenstein,
Senior Staff Attorney,
Voting Rights Project, ACLU
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October 25, 2013

On The Daily Show Wednesday, we had the misfortune of hearing from North Carolina GOP executive committee member Don Yelton, whose despicable comments on North Carolina’s new voter suppression law included “if it hurts a bunch of lazy Blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

Here is the man who chooses poll watchers and recommends election judges advertising his backward views on national television. He is a problem and has resigned. But the discriminatory law North Carolina passed in July, which will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, is a badder, broader, more bigoted problem. And it is still in effect.

North Carolina has a long and sad history of official discrimination against African Americans, including official discrimination in voting that has touched upon the right of African Americans and other people of color to register, vote, or otherwise participate in the democratic process.

Over the past decade, North Carolina has seen some improvements based on the addition of an early voting period, same day registration, and out of precinct voting. In 2001, for example, North Carolina began offering early voting, an opportunity more than half of all North Carolina voters–2.4 million people–took advantage of in the 2008 and 2012 elections. In both elections, over 70 percent of African-American voters cast their ballot during early voting as compared with under 52 percent of white voters. In 2003, North Carolina introduced “same day registration” during the early voting period, and in 2005, it passed a law allowing provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct to be counted for the ballot items for which a voter was eligible to vote, which have aided North Carolinians in voting and having their vote counted.

But all of the recent political participation may have made more than a few politicians nervous.

As soon as North Carolinians lost the protection of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, state legislators passed a destructive law which cut a week of early voting, eliminated same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting, and required particular voter identification at the polls.

That is, some state legislators passed the law. Not a single African American member of the North Carolina House or Senate voted in favor of it.

The ACLU and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice immediately filed a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of the North Carolina League of Women Voters, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Unifour Onestop Collaborative, Common Cause North Carolina and individual voters.

North Carolina is not the only state that has recently passed discriminatory legislation. In Kansas and Arizona, we have seen unprecedented efforts to limit the franchise of new voters by requiring documentation of citizenship for registration. We have seen states such as Texas disenfranchise electors because they lack a particular type of identification documents, documents more often held by white electors and not readily obtained by electors experiencing poverty. We have seen an ongoing pattern of vote dilution in states’ re-districting plans. And we have seen and heard from officials, such as Yelton, who shamelessly promote voter suppression.

Politicians who throw barriers in the face of increased political participation insult everyone who believes in equality and the basic principle of American democracy: one-person, one-vote.

See the full segment below, and learn more about our case to fight voter suppression League of Women Voters North Carolina et. al v. North Carolina.

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