Opponents plan legal challenge to voting changes

Posted July 24, 2013

— As the Senate takes up a raft of changes to North Carolina election laws on Wednesday, opponents said attorneys are already reviewing the proposal for a planned legal challenge.

House Bill 589 initially called for voters to present photo identification at the polls, but Senate Republicans rolled out an amended bill Tuesday that included measures affecting voter registration, early voting and campaign finance.

Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, said the legislation runs afoul of the Voting Rights Act. Although the U.S. Supreme Court recently invalidated part of the federal law, saying it was outdated, other sections prohibiting voter discrimination remain intact.

"Voting is being emasculated in this state," Michaux said during a news conference by the Legislative Black Caucus.

He and Sen. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, recalled traveling across North Carolina 50 years ago to register voters, and they said they were appalled that those gains could now be stripped away.

"This is an abomination," Parmon said of the bill's impact. "It's immoral, and it's just downright wrong."

State NAACP President William Barber vowed to fight the proposal both in and outside of the courts.

"This is a battle we must fight for all North Carolinians and all Americans," Barber said during a separate news conference.

Democratic lawmakers, Barber and others argued that the bill is designed to erect barriers to voting to keep Republicans in power.

Barber recounted the history of Jim Crow practices designed to prevent blacks and poor whites from voting, and he compared House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger with noted segregationist politicians Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and George Wallace of Alabama.

"There is a sour stench of inequality and voter suppression in the air of the General Assembly," he said.

The legislation proposes to shorten the early voting period in general elections from 17 to 10 days, to prohibit counties from extending early voting hours on the Saturday before Election Day to accommodate crowds and to eliminate same-day voter registration during early voting.

Other provisions in the revamped bill include the following:

  • Eliminate pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, who currently can register to vote before they turn 18.
  • Outlaw paid voter registration drives.
  • Eliminate straight-ticket voting.
  • Eliminate provisional voting if someone shows up at the wrong precinct.
  • Prohibit counties from extending poll hours by one hour on Election Day in extraordinary circumstances, such as in response to long lines.
  • Allow any registered voter of a county to challenge the eligibility of a voter rather than just a voter of the precinct in which the suspect voter is registered.
  • Move the presidential primary to first Tuesday after South Carolina's primary if that state holds its primary before March 15. That would mean North Carolina would have two primaries during presidential elections.
  • Study electronic filing for campaign returns.
  • Increase the maximum allowed campaign contribution per election from $4,000 to $5,000.
  • Loosen disclosure requirements in campaign ads paid for by independent committees.
  • Repeal the publicly funded election program for appellate court judges.
  • Repeal the requirement that candidates endorse ads run by their campaigns.

Anita Simha, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the proposed elections changes come on top of legislation affecting her as a woman and a student.

"With all this going on, it is hard to even consider that my representatives are working for me," Simha said. "But what scares me most is they're trying to make sure I cannot change what I don't like."

Bree Newsome, a film director and songwriter who has backed youth voting rights efforts, called the legislation "an insult to democracy."

"Voter fraud is not what shakes our confidence in government. This (bill) is what shakes our confidence in government," Newsome said. "Confidence in government will be restored when anyone who votes for it is removed from office."

Rep. Garland Pierce, the chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he continues to hope that some House Republicans will refuse to agree with how the Senate "hijacked" the bill and will block its passage.

"This party has hoodwinked all of North Carolina," Pierce, D-Scotland, said of Senate Republicans.


This blog post is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • junkmail5 Jul 25, 2013

    I suggest that some of you go back to 2008 and see where the US Supreme Court has ruled that voter ID is Constitutional. All of your horror stories have not be realized in one of the many other states that already require ID to vote and any legal challenge will lose based on what has already gone before the CURRENT US Supreme Court. So those posting the North Carolina Constitution should know that it does not overrule the US Constitution.

    Completely wrong.

    The courts found that it doesn't violate the federal constitution, under certain very specific cases.

    But that has NOTHING to do with violating the STATE one.

    You're completely misunderstanding how the supremacy clause works.

    If the FEDERAL one specifically SAID ID was required, the state one can't waive that requirement.

    But that's not how voting works in the US.

    Most of the rules are left to the states so as long as they don't violate a federal rule.

    Req. ID violates the STATE constitution.

    It's illegal.

  • junkmail5 Jul 25, 2013

    I needed photo ID to see two different specalist this week and photo ID to fill prescriptions but yet some folks cannot get acceptable ID to vote. How is that possible. Or are Doctors and drug stores breaking the law

    there's absolutely no law requiring a doctor to see a photo ID to see or treat you.

    for that matter I can't recall the last time I had to show a photo to pick up a prescription either.

    Heck, I pick them up for my wife from time to time and I look nothing like her.

    But the main difference is neither of the above things are constitutional rights, while voting IS.

    So WHAT EXACTLY is wrong with someone showing ID at the voting booth?- common sensey

    Well, there's the fact that making it a requirement violates the NC Constitution....

    Anybody that says that there have been no illegal votes cast is either misinformed or lying. There have been documented cases of people voting multiple times- Gov watchdog

    Nope. Not IN PERSON where ID would stop em.

  • bombayrunner Jul 24, 2013

    protesting everything is not democracy, its lunacy.

  • bombayrunner Jul 24, 2013

    it slike some people are just dying to be held back from voting ...

  • sjb2k1 Jul 24, 2013

    Sjb2k1 - the free ID would probably be paid for by the same people that "pay" for you and I to vote. The cost of Voting/Electionsis NOT free.
    Click to view my profile Pulling for the Tarheels
    as long as i get my free ID, preferably in the mail so i don't have to spend time and gas going to get it, and i'm not required to show my driver's license, maybe i'm okay with that part. maybe.

  • Hubris Jul 24, 2013

    For months now people have been labeling the Republicans as divisive and controversial. While I don't agree with many things the GOP does, I'll remind people that it takes at least two to disagree. The protesters have garnered far more local and national air time and print than the GOP's actual legislation.

    Let's face it, watching people get arrested is easier to understand and more sensational than complex budgeting strategies to balance the state's accounts. Superficiality winds over substance all the time.

  • Pirate01 Jul 24, 2013

    Here are some voting facts for the "sky is falling" people. North Carolina is 1 of 32 states that allow early voting at polling places. 18 states allow NO early voting at polling places. North Carolina is 1 of 29 states that allow you to vote by mail with no excuse such as being out of the country. 21 states do not allow it without a good excuse. Even at the new period of 10 days North Carolina has one of the longest available timeframes to vote in the country.

  • sunshine1040 Jul 24, 2013

    I needed photo ID to see two different specalist this week and photo ID to fill prescriptions but yet some folks cannot get acceptable ID to vote. How is that possible. Or are Doctors and drug stores breaking the law

  • Pulling for the Tarheels Jul 24, 2013

    Sjb2k1 - the free ID would probably be paid for by the same people that "pay" for you and I to vote. The cost of Voting/Electionsis NOT free.

  • justiceforall Jul 24, 2013

    Show your ID and shut up.