Raleigh, N.C. — Hundreds of people marched through downtown Raleigh on Thursday evening and rallied near the State Capitol in support of voting rights.
The demonstration is part of the NAACP's Journey for Justice march, which began Aug. 1 in Selma, Ala., and is expected to conclude later this month with a rally in Washington, D.C. The 860-mile trek has focused on issues from improving schools to economic growth to criminal justice reform, but in North Carolina, it has centered on voting rights.
“I am here for justice, for the right to vote,” said demonstrator Mary Perry. “I fought in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I’m tired of fighting, but I’ll fight on.”
State lawmakers enacted sweeping election law changes two years ago, such as eliminating same-day registration, shortening early voting and, beginning next year, requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. Portions of the law are being challenged in both state and federal courts.
The legislation came shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out part of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, saying it was based on old data.
"Legislatures, especially in the South, have engaged in all out assault against voting rights because Congress has not acted to fix the Voting Rights Act," Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, said in a statement. "As a result, North Carolina has seen the worst attack on voting rights since the days of the first Jim Crow in the 1800s."
Demonstrators marched from Shaw University along Davie and Fayetteville streets to Bicentennial Plaza, between the Capitol and the Legislative Building, chanting for justice and carrying signs in support of voting rights.
"We believe that the Voting Rights Act is vital American treasure which has to be preserved and protected," national NAACP President Cornell Brooks said as he marched. "The right to vote is a civic sacrament. The voting booth is our altar. We cannot allow the right to vote to be desecrated. We cannot allow the right to vote to be taken away."
Kara Carter, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Republican Party, said the NAACP's concerns are misplaced.
"The truth is their opposition to North Carolina's voting law isn't about race or justice. Even after the law was enacted, African-American voter turnout increased in 2014," Carter said in a statement.