Guest host Ezra Klein noted on the show last night that some key legislative fights were “down to the wire” in North Carolina, as the state legislative session neared its adjournment. After the show aired, there were some important developments, so let’s take a moment to recap – and explain why this matters in the larger context.
First up are the most sweeping voter-suppression efforts seen anywhere in the United States in generations, which, much to the disappointment of voting-rights advocates, garnered the support of literally every member of the Republican majority in both chambers, who voted to keep more North Carolinians from being able to participate in their own democracy.
As lawmakers rushed to adjourn for the summer, lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to drastic changes in how voting will be conducted in future elections in North Carolina.
After more than two-and-a-half hours of debate, the House voted 73-41 on party lines late Thursday to agree with dozens of changes made by Senate Republicans to a bill that originally simply required voters to show photo identification at the polls. It was approved by the Senate earlier Thursday, 33-14, also on party lines.
As we’ve discussed, the proposal is remarkable in its scope, including a needlessly discriminatory voter-ID provision, new limits on early voting, blocks on voter-registration drive, restrictions on extended voting times to ease long lines, an end to same-day registration, new efforts to discourage youth voting, and expanded opportunities for “vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters.”
How many North Carolina Republican lawmakers supported these suppression tactics for no apparent reason? Each and every one of them.
State Rep. Mickey Michaux (D-N.C.), who fought for voting rights in the 1960s, told the GOP majority, “I want you to understand what this bill means to people. We have fought for, died for and struggled for our right to vote. You can take these 57 pages of abomination and confine them to the streets of hell for all eternity.”
And then, of course, there are the new limits on reproductive rights.
Late last night, they were approved, too.
The state Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill that imposes new regulations and restrictions on abortion providers.
Senators voted 32-13 Thursday evening, sending the measure to Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who has said he will sign the measure as it was passed.
For his part, the Republican governor, just six months into his first term, promised voters as a candidate last year that he would oppose any new restrictions on women’s reproductive rights in the state. Now, however, McCrory is prepared to sign this bill anyway – his public vow apparently came with fine print that voters might have missed
The result is a new regulatory measure, known as a TRAP law, that will likely close 15 of the 16 clinics where abortion services are provided.
Let’s also not lose sight of the context for this radicalism. For the first time since the Reconstruction era, Republicans control the state House, state Senate, and governor’s office, and as we recently talked about, GOP officials had an opportunity to govern modestly and responsibly, making incremental changes with an eye on the political mainstream.
What the state has instead seen is what Rachel described as “conservatives gone wild.” North Carolina Republicans gutted unemployment benefits despite a weak economy; they imposed the most sweeping voting restrictions anywhere in the United States; they cut funding for struggling public schools; they blocked Medicaid expansion despite the toll it will take on the state hospitals and poor families, they repealed the Racial Justice Act; and then they closed nearly every women’s health clinic in the state.
And really, that’s just a partial list.
It’s a microcosm of a national political crisis of sorts – North Carolina, a competitive state perceived as a burgeoning powerhouse with some of the nation’s finest universities, became frustrated with a struggling economy, so it took a chance on Republican rule. The consequences of this gamble are proving to be a frightening step backward for the state.