Raleigh, N.C. — The Legislative Black Caucus said Tuesday that it will fight Republican attempts to cut early voting times, ban Sunday voting and prohibit same-day registration and straight-ticket voting – changes the Democratic lawmakers say are aimed squarely at black voters.
“We continue to move backward with legislation filed by tea-party Republicans in the General Assembly this session,” said caucus leader Rep.Garland Pierce, D-Scotland.
“These two bills are the most appalling and frightful bills that I have seen in my tenure here,” Pierce said. “We cannot, must not and will not sit on the sidelines and let this happen.”
“When (Starnes) said the bill would not target anyone,” said Pierce, “he is simply wrong, and he knows better.” He called Starnes’ claim to be honoring the Sabbath by eliminating Sunday voting “truly ungodly.”
“I don't see anything wrong with (Sunday voting), and I'm a clergy,” 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,” he added. “Our state is in a ditch.”
Pierce said the proposed Sunday voting ban is clearly aimed at suppressing “Souls to the Polls” voter drives at black churches. Of 61,000 people who voted on Sunday in the 2012 presidential election, 39 percent were black – nearly double the 22 percent proportion of registered North Carolina voters who are black.
“I think the Republicans are really afraid of what voters will do in 2014,” he said. "They want to reduce voter turnout, even if hurts some of their own voters, as long as it hurts their opponents even more.
"Let the people vote," he said, "and let the chips fall where they may."
House Minority Leader Larry Hall said efforts to cut early voting in North Carolina would likely result in long lines and lawsuits like those that plagued Florida’s 2012 election after similar cuts were made there.
Hall, D-Durham, said the proposals don’t match the “customer service mentality” Gov. Pat McCrory has said he wants to bring to state government.
“What is customer service when you take away people's rights and make them stand in long lines?” Hall said.
“The cutback on same-day registration – we haven’t had any problems with that,” said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, adding that Republicans are trying to loosen rules for absentee mail voting, more popular with Republicans, despite their voiced concerns about voter fraud.
“It just boggles the mind,” Michaux said, “the ideology that's coming out of this General Assembly.”
“I haven't seen a bill yet that's created a job,” he added.