NC Capitol

NC Capitol

Federal civil rights panel looks at voting rights in NC

Posted February 2, 2018 6:48 p.m. EST

— The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was in Raleigh on Friday to look at access to voting for minorities, saying North Carolina could provide a lens through which to examine voting rights nationwide.

In recent years, courts have struck down North Carolina laws requiring photo identification to vote, limiting early voting and redrawing congressional and legislative voting districts as unconstitutional, usually because of the adverse impact the changes would have on minority voters.

Commission on Civil Rights Chairwoman Catherine Lhamon said the input gathered in North Carolina will be a major part of its 2018 report.

"It's a multi-partisan panel of experts sharing their views about the efficacy of federal enforcement, the need for strong civil rights law in respect to voting rights and the very serious kinds of challenges over the contest of the right to vote that we continue to see here in North Carolina and around the country," Lhamon said. "We can advise Congress, we can advise the president, the public on what we should be doing as a nation to protect our right to vote, to make sure that democracy is successful for all of us."

Legal experts, professors and former state and federal government leaders offered insight and perspective to commission members throughout the day on the current state of voting rights in the country. Rev. William Barber, former state NAACP president, was among the panelists.

"We need to deal with the fact that, 52 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed, we're going backwards," Barber said, comparing voting rights in North Carolina today with Selma, Ala., a half century ago.

"Not only did we have the worst voter suppression laws in the nation and the worst redistricting, we won against them, and the courts proved it was racism, he said.

The commission held a public forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday to collect comments from individuals.