Durham, N.C. — Leaders of the state chapter of the NAACP said Wednesday that they are prepared to challenge any changes to North Carolina's voting laws in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down part of the landmark Voting Rights Act.
The justices said in 5-4 vote Tuesday that the law Congress most recently renewed in 2006 relies on 40-year-old data that does not reflect racial progress and changes in U.S. society. The ruling means a key provision of the Voting Rights Act cannot be enforced unless Congress comes up with an up-to-date formula for deciding which states and localities still need federal monitoring.
"This bad ruling of the ultra-conservative justices on the Supreme Court attacks the very heart of our democracy," said Rev. William Barber, state president of the NAACP.
The Voting Rights Act, which was designed to protect the rights of minority voters in places with a history of voter suppression, has applied to nine states and parts of seven more, including most of eastern North Carolina. It has required the states to receive federal approval of any changes to their voting laws, including the voting maps drawn after each redistricting.
"Saying that the high turnout of African-Americans is proof that the Voting Rights Act is not needed is to miss the point. The turnout is high because of the protection of the Voting Rights Act," Barber said.
Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said Tuesday that the state Senate plans to roll out a package of changes to voting laws next week. It could include provisions requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, reducing the time for early voting and eliminating same-day voter registration.
Barber criticized Apodaca for calling the Voting Rights Act a headache in expressing relief the state was now free from its regulations.
"I don't know if I used the word 'headache' or not, but it was always an obstacle and always cost additional time and money to run things to Washington and get them reviewed," Apodaca said Wednesday.
Action North Carolina, a liberal advocacy group, plans phone banks in several cities across the state next week to generate opposition to any changes to state voting laws, Barber said.