NC NAACP and NC LBC to GOP: “We’ll fight you”
By Cash Michaels of The Wilmington Journal
Call it a “war council,” if you will, because according to the NC NAACP, the NC Legislative Black Caucus and others, it’s all hands on deck across the state to fight what it calls the “extreme attacks on voting rights and human dignity in many forms by the current leadership of the NC General Assembly.”
Tuesday evening, an “emergency community assembly strategy session” was held at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, held by the NC NAACP, the HK on J People’s Assembly Coalition and others, to plot how to stop the Republican-led Legislature.
Last week, as Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP predicted a month ago, Republican lawmakers in both the state House and Senate filed bills that collectively, if passed, would end same-day voter registration; cut the One Stop/early voting period down from two weeks to just one week; end Sunday “Souls to the Polls” early voting; and end straight ticket voting.
“The legislature is trying to crucify voting rights in this state,” Rev. Barber said during a Good Friday press conference at Pullen.
On Wednesday, in another apparent effort to suppress the youth and college vote in the state, a Republican bill in the state Senate was filed to tax the parents of in-state college students who register to vote at their schools, instead of their home addresses.
Critics say the GOP drive to cripple base voters of the Democrat is more than apparent.
Studies show that in North Carolina, African-American voters are overwhelmingly in favor of the early voting as it currently exists, especially “Souls to the polls,” where black churches beings vans of voters from their congregations to cast ballots.
Over 56 percent of the 4.5 million votes cast in the November 2012 election were early votes, with Republicans comprising at least 40 percent of those, studies show.
Indeed, blacks comprise a sizable number of early voters in the state, something some observers say Republicans want to curtail by changing the laws, and implementing voter photo ID.
Over 30,000 North Carolinians voted on Sundays per the last two presidential elections, according to the NC Democratic Party, another Democrat advantage the GOP would like to be rid of in order to hold on to their majorities in the General Assembly, critics say.
The GOP legislation, if passed, would also make it easier for voters to mail-in absentee ballots, something that is favored more by Republicans, who tend to be upper-income compared to black Democrats, and travel more frequently.
Republican lawmakers say the cost of early voting has to be curtailed, plus their legislation limits possible voter fraud. Critics counter that when the state of Florida cut early voting last year, voters had to wait on long lines for over 8 hours, still costing the state money and embarrassing Florida. Gov. Rick Scott has now decided to extend early voting back to 14 days, which is what it was previously.
NC House Rep. Edgar Starnes (R- Caldwell), the sponsor of one of the bills, says voting on Sunday isn’t something that should be allowed because it is the Sabbath. He denied that his bill targeted black Sunday voters.
The NC Legislative Black Caucus, however, isn’t buying it. It joined the fray Tuesday, vowing to fight the GOP voting overhaul with everything it has.
“We cannot, must not, and will not sit on the sidelines and let this happen, state Rep. Garland Pierce (D-Scotland), chair of the NCLBC, declared.
Rep. Pierce, who is also an ordained minister, blasted Rep, Starnes’ belief that people shouldn’t be voting on Sunday.
“I don’t see anything wrong with (Sunday voting)…” Pierce said. “You can go to work on Sunday. We go shopping on Sunday. Some buy and consume alcoholic beverages on Sunday. Some complete absentee ballots and drop it in the mail on Sunday.”
“The Bible says, if your ox is in a ditch (on the Sabbath), get him out,” Pierce added. “Our state is in a ditch.”
The editorials in major newspapers across the state have pounced on the GOP for what they see as a purely partisan power grab.
The News and Observer asked, “Do they not feel confident enough in what they’ve done and what they plan to do that they now think they need every advantage when it comes to the rules even if their rules might reduce participation? Don’t they think they can successfully stand for election and re-election on the merits of their ideas?”
“Republican leaders say this is really about cutting costs, not cutting into Democratic turnout. But the political implications are obvious”, wrote The Salisbury Post.
And The Durham Herald-Sun warned, “Trying to marginalize Democratic voters with the calendar doesn’t really guarantee an edge for Republican candidates. But it certainly might galvanize Democratic response.”
The coalition of progressive groups against the GOP agenda is growing with each new bill that is filed. Progress NC, a nonprofit advocacy group, announced its opposition to the voting changes Monday at the Legislature.
On Wednesday, on another issue concerning to progressives, Republicans in the state Senate voted to repeal what was left of the 2009 NC Racial Justice Act, which prohibited racially-biased verdicts in death penalty cases.
That bill also seeks to restart capital punishment in the state, which has been on hold because of legal cases since 2006.