One of the most restrictive voting measures passed by any state in recent memory now awaits signature from Republican Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina.
The bill was given final approval late Thursday night by a vote of 73-41 in the GOP-dominated North Carolina House. The state Senate, also Republican-controlled, signed off the measure a day earlier.
Gov. McCrory’s press office has so far not responded to requests for comment on whether he plans to sign the bill, which would shorten the early voting period by a week and require voters to present government-issued photo ID at the polls. The measure also ends same-day voter registration, eliminates a high school program that helps students register before their 18th birthdays, enables political parties to collect unlimited corporate donations, and weakens disclosure requirements designed to create transparency in political spending.
Republican backers claim the bill’s purpose is to combat voter fraud, despite records showing only a handful of such cases prosecuted in the state over the last decade, reports the Associated Press. Critics argue the intention of North Carolina’s bill, and similar bills under consideration in other states, is to disenfranchise certain demographics.
“There are zero instances of in-person voter fraud in the states that are doing this–North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi,” said Kathy Culliton-Gonzalez, director of voter protection at the Advancement Project, on msnbc Friday. “What they’re really about is finding ways to restrict voting rights for women, for people of color, for low-income people, and for the elderly, who no longer drive and don’t have a driver’s license. It’s politicians manipulating the right to vote–something fundamentally against the basic principles of American democracy.”
North Carolina’s voting restrictions come on the heels of the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to challenge similar efforts in Texas, which passed a voter-ID law in 2011 but was subsequently blocked from enforcing it. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday announced the DOJ would ask a federal court to keep the Lone Star State under preclearance, requiring that it get federal approval before making changes to its voting laws. The announcement also suggested, reports the Washington Post, that a lawsuit against Texas’ voter-ID law was on the horizon.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a statement called the move an “end-run around the Supreme Court,” which last month struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the provision that determined which jurisdictions were subject to the preclearance requirement. (North Carolina was also among those states, mostly in the South, required to get federal approval before making changes to its voting laws.)
Holder maintains his actions rest on a provision of the Voting Rights Act left intact–Section 3–that allows the federal government to subject jurisdictions with a recent history of discrimination to the preclearance regime. He suggested the DOJ may pursue legal action in other states as well.
“I, for one, am very glad the Justice Department is taking action,” said Culliton-Gonzalez. “They need to use all of the tools of the Voting Rights Act that are available to try to continue to protect voting rights in the wave of voter suppression that we are experiencing here and now in our country.”