Questioned today about a meeting between House Speaker Thom Tillis and conservative activists over Voter ID, a Tillis staffer said the NAACP had cancelled its chance to offer a balancing view on the proposal.
State NAACP President William Barber is calling that a mischaracterization.
Shortly after WRAL published this post about Tillis's meeting today with immigration activists, one of the Speaker's staffers said via the office's Twitter account that "Barber & NAACP cancelled 1:45p meeting w/ Speaker and PPT [President Pro Tem Phil Berger] to discuss Ed. & Voter ID issues today."
Barber says that's not what happened.
"For the Speaker or the Speaker’s office to publicly suggest to the media that we cancelled a scheduled meeting without giving the full details is both a distortion and a disappointment," Barber said in a statement.
Barber said his group began trying to arrange a meeting with GOP leaders in early May, two weeks prior to the group's lobby day at the legislature. He said Tillis finally agreed to a May 23rd meeting with restrictions including an approved guest list and a media blackout. Barber said his coalition rejected those terms, but "did not find out until the day of our legislative day that [Tillis] would not honor the original commitment."
Since then, Barber said, he's continued to try to set up a meeting between civil rights groups and GOP leaders about issues including "the budget, public education, Racial Justice Act, Voter ID, etc."
"It was never just about Voter ID," he added.
Last week, Barber said, Tillis's staff offered 15 minutes today, but with no guarantee Senate Leader Phil Berger would also attend. And the earlier restrictions would again be in effect.
"We informed them last week that today would not be a good day," Barber explained. "And we informed them again that their restrictions such as a limit on who could come and the banning of any media was unacceptable. The General Assembly is the People’s House, not a private institution."
"For Mr. Tillis to suggest that we would break off a meeting regarding Voter ID or any other issue is disingenuous considering the many, many attempts we’ve made to meet, [and] his own public comments last year that he would not meet with the NAACP," said Barber.
"We are still willing to meet with the majority leadership as long as we can bring representative members of our coalition, and they do not try to set arbitrary limitations suggesting we should meet under the cover of darkness in the People’s House," he concluded.