North Carolina sharpens new restrictions on voting


Earlier this year, Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina had grand ambitions on new voting restrictions, which they never expected to approve. They knew the Voting Rights Act would send their plan to the Justice Department for approval, and their proposal was certain to be rejected.

But with the U.S. Supreme Court having gutted the VRA, North Carolina Republicans are no longer holding back. We talked last week about a new voter-ID law – which would prohibit the use of student IDs for reasons proponents cannot explain – and The Nation’s Ari Berman reports today on the latest changes to the state’s “extreme voter-suppression measures.”

This week, the North Carolina legislature will almost certainly pass a strict new voter ID law that could disenfranchise 318,000 registered voters who don’t have the narrow forms of accepted state-issued ID.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the bill has since been amended by Republicans to include a slew of appalling voter suppression measures. They include cutting a week of early voting, ending same-day registration during the early voting period and making it easier for vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters.

Counties will be allowed to offer voting on the Sunday before the election, but only if those votes are cast before 1 p.m. Counties will not be allowed to extend polling hours by one hour in the event of long lies.

Ari added, “The bill even eliminates Citizens Awareness Month to encourage voter registration.”

And why on earth is this considered necessary?

If we listen to the rhetoric from the state legislature, Republican policymakers say they’re worried about voter fraud. Let’s pause, then, to note (a) since 2000, there are exactly two individual incidents involving voter impersonation in North Carolina, out of several million votes cast; and (b) many of these new voting restrictions have literally nothing to do with the possibility of fraud.

Let’s make this plain: GOP officials in North Carolina believe the best way to ensure they keep power is to prevent more eligible voters from participating in their own democracy. That’s an unfortunate combination of cynicism and abuse, but it’s hard to draw any other conclusion.

The bill is being debated this afternoon in the state Senate Rules Committee. Voting-rights advocates are not optimistic.