In North Carolina, thanks to Republican gains in the 2010 state elections, the congressional district lines already drawn in such a comically gerrymandered way, the state’s delegation bears little resemblance to the actual wishes of voters. In 2012, for example, a majority of North Carolinians voted for Democratic congressional candidates, and yet, only 4 of the state’s 13 members of the U.S. House are Democrats.
But as the Los Angeles Times reports today, that’s apparently not quite good enough for GOP state policymakers. In a story Rachel has covered on the show, now that the district lines have been gerrymandered to ensure a Republican advantage regardless of voters’ wishes, the next step is to restrict voters’ access to their own democracy.
The GOP chairman of the state Senate rules committee, Sen. Tom Apodaca, said he would move quickly to pass a voter ID law that Republicans say would bolster the integrity of the balloting process. GOP leaders also began engineering an end to the state’s early voting, Sunday voting and same-day registration provisions, all popular with black voters. Civil rights groups say the moves are designed to restrict poll access by blacks, who vote reliably Democratic.
Up until about a week ago, this would ordinarily be the point at which voting-rights advocates, civil rights activists, and anyone concerned with voter access and election fairness would say, “Whew, it’s a good thing the Voting Rights Act still exists. There’s no way these North Carolina’s measures will pass muster.”
But all of that changed rather abruptly when five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act and gave GOP policymakers in North Carolina and elsewhere a green light to start restricting Americans’ access to the ballot box. It is open season on voting rights and Republicans throughout the South are seizing the opportunity.
Originally, GOP lawmakers in North Carolina held back on pursuing voter-ID laws, knowing how racially discriminatory they are. But thanks to the Supreme Court, they no longer care.
What’s especially interesting to me as how thin the pretense is. At least on the surface, Republicans say they need to impose the harshest voting restrictions since Jim Crow to prevent “voter fraud.” In reality, such fraud is practically non-existent, but it nevertheless serves as a convenient pretense. But how does ending Sunday voting prevent fraud? Why eliminate early-voting opportunities and make longer voting lines, neither of which relate to fraud at all?
Of course, questions like these only matter if there’s a real debate, and with Republicans controlling North Carolina’s legislature and governor’s office, whether the pretense makes sense or not is apparently irrelevant.