That this outcome was inevitable doesn’t make it any less offensive.
Gov. Pat McCrory Monday signed into law a bill requiring voters to produce a photo ID when they go to the polls, a measure that was hailed by Republicans as a means for heightening ballot security but which was criticized by Democrats as a thinly disguised effort at voter suppression.
The bill was passed along partisan lines by the Republican majority in the legislature, over strong opposition of Democrats.
The Republican governor released a video this afternoon, explaining his reasoning over the course of 96 seconds, arguing that he approved the “common sense” state legislation in the interest of the “integrity of our election process.”
McCrory added that the “extreme left” has relied on “scare tactics.”
Unfortunately for North Carolinians, the governor has no idea what he’s talking about. (In fact, as of two weeks ago, he literally didn’t know – McCrory was praising the legislation despite not having read it, and couldn’t answer basic questions about proposals he’d already publicly endorsed.)
The governor kept using the phrase “common sense,” but when it comes to voting rights, I don’t think that means what he thinks it means.
As we discussed a few weeks ago, we’ve seen plenty of “war on voting” measures over the last few years, but North Carolina Republicans pushed the envelope in new and offensive directions. Barbara Arnwine, president of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said during the legislative fight, “This is the single worst bill we have seen introduced since voter suppression bills began sweeping the country.”
The scope is simply breathtaking – the new state law imposes voter-ID restrictions never needed before in North Carolina, narrows the early-voting window, places new restrictions on voter-registration drives, makes it harder for students to vote, ends same-day registration during the early voting period, and makes it easier for vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters.
And why on earth would Republicans consider all of this necessary? Was there a widespread outbreak of voter fraud that necessitated the most sweeping new voter-suppression tactics seen anywhere in the nation? Of course not. For one thing, since 2000, there are exactly two incidents – not two percent, literally two individuals – involving suspected voter impersonation in North Carolina, out of several million votes cast. You’re far more likely to find someone struck by lightning in the state than find an improperly-cast ballot.
For another, many of the measures signed into law today – including narrowing the early-voting window – have nothing to do with improving the integrity of the process or preventing fraud, and everything to do with making it more difficult for people to participate in their own democracy.
These are not “scare tactics” from the “extreme left”; these are simply facts.
Up until fairly recently, there’s no way North Carolina’s new voter-suppression campaign would be approved by the Justice Department, but after five Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, the DOJ did not have an opportunity to consider the proposal before it was signed into law.
Attorney General Eric Holder has already challenged new measures in Texas under the remaining elements of the VRA; we’ll know soon enough whether North Carolina is added to the mix.