NC voter laws ruled intentionally discriminatory by 4th Circuit Court

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 1.51.04 PMBy: Cara L. Gallagher, weekend contributor

This is a follow up on N.C. State Conference of the NAACP v. McCrory

African-American voters in North Carolina were “targeted with almost surgical precision” by the North Carolina legislature, according to a three-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote the opinion dismantling, point by point, all the provisions rushed through the Legislature in the days immediately following the landmark voting rights decision in Shelby County v. Holder on June 25, 2013.

In the Shelby decision, the Supreme Court released states that, after passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, were required to clear all changes to voting policies and practices with either a federal court or the Department of Justice. Former slave states, where Jim Crow laws abound that disenfranchised minority voters for decades, were released from the pre-clearance requirement and allowed to make whatever changes they wanted to voting policies. States like North Carolina and Texas moved immediately – within days – to initiate laws increasing restrictions on voter access.

In North Carolina, one day after the Shelby decision, the State Legislature designed and accelerated passage of an “omnibus” bill with five provisions restricting voting access. These provisions, aimed at curbing voter fraud, disproportionately affected African-American voter turnout in myriad ways.

· Provision one required voters show a DMV-issued ID in order to vote. The bill excluded non-government issued identification and no longer allowed voters to use recently expired IDs. According to Judge Motz, African-Americans disproportionately lack DMV-issued identification.

· Provision two eliminated early voting days from 17 to 10 when 60% of blacks voted early compared to 44-49% of whites. Among the 17 was one of two Sundays which historically are “Souls to the polls” days when African-American churches provide transportation to polling places.

· Provision three eliminated same-day voter registration, an effort that disproportionately affected blacks who are more likely to move and need to re-register and vote on the same day.

· Provision four eliminated out-of-precinct voting which affected black voters who tend to lack access to the kind of voter education programs that inform them about their correct polling places. Because of the increased rates of mobility, African-Americans are more likely to go to the wrong polling place.

· Provision five ended a pre-registration program for high school students who could’ve automatically registered to vote at 18 when they received their driver’s license. According to the State, the program was eliminated because it was “too confusing.”

Legislation like this in North Carolina is exactly what Shelby opponents were afraid of: Fast-tracked restrictions and laws framed in seemingly race-neutral ways that don’t appear on paper to have the intent to disenfranchise but have the effect of doing exactly that.

Despite appearances, NAACP v. McCrory articulated a clear message to other states that discrimination “need not be the sole or even primary motive for the legislation, just that it was a motivating factor.” Restricting access to a group of people, particularly racial groups, dilutes voter efficacy. This hampers their ability to elect members of a specific party and results in racially polarized voting. As African-Americans have consistently voted Democratic, the Court found these restrictions imposed by the North Carolina state legislature in 2013 – a time when Republicans had the majority in the House, Senate, and the Governor’s mansion – intentionally discriminatory to black voters and likely to have an adverse effect on Democratic candidates.

The facts Judge Motz methodically presented revealed concerted efforts to subdue the effects of rising black voter turnout, efforts that reflect insidious machinations by Republicans to dilute an influential bloc of voters in as fast a way as possible. Take for instance black voter registration in North Carolina prior to the 2013 bill, which grew to 51.1% between 2000 and 2012. African-American turnout also grew from 41.9% in 2000, to 71.5% in 2008, and 68.5% in 2012. “Not coincidentally, during this period North Carolina emerged as a swing state in the national elections,” according to the decision.

Vote dilution mitigates the power that comes with racially polarized voting. Since African-American voters in North Carolina overwhelmingly vote Democratic, [85% of African-Americans voted for Kerry in 2004, 95% for Obama in 2008; 27% of whites voted for Kerry, 35% for Obama] any restrictions would protect the very architects who designed the law in 2013.

North Carolina’s Legislature and the lower court failed to see the “forest in surveying the trees” and the “inextricable link between race and politics” that resulted in the disenfranchisement of thousands of African-American votes. According to the Judges, “Indeed, neither this legislature – nor, as far as we can tell, any other legislature in the Country – has ever done so much, so fast, to restrict access to the franchise.”

Fast is an understatement. Take for instance the glaring disparity in the way the first draft of the bill – which in its 16 pages included only one minor voter identification provision – was handled compared to the second draft, a 57-page “omnibus” mother of a bill that included five voter restrictive provisions.

The first draft, released in April of 2013, received six weeks of hearings and debate, and the backing of opposing party members. It sat unchanged until June 26, 2013, one day after the Shelby decision was announced by the Supreme Court. That day the Legislature put the same bill on steroids, editing the one provision and adding four more.

The second draft offered no public debate or action for a month, was released on the down low for which no minutes of meetings about the bill exist, and moved through the General Assembly in a record three days. “This hurried pace, of course, strongly suggests an attempt to avoid in-depth scrutiny,” wrote Judge Motz.

The three judges criticized the district court for allowing the state to chalk up the restrictions to one party playing “politics as usual” against the other. Judge Motz, in perhaps the most derisive commentary in the decision, condemns this notion. “We recognize that elections have consequences, but winning an election does not empower anyone in any party to engage in purposeful racial discrimination. When a legislature dominated by one party has dismantled barriers to African American access to the franchise, even if done to gain votes, ‘politics as usual’ does not allow a legislature dominated by the other party to re-erect those barriers.

Particularly damning was the fact that the legislature requested data that broke down DMV-issued identification ownership, absentee voting, early voting, same-day registration, and provisional voting by race during the drafting of the bill. Analysis of this data would’ve (or should’ve) revealed to lawmakers that African-American voters are disproportionately impacted in each category. With this revelation, any argument by the State that there was no intent to discriminate against black voters and no knowledge that the restrictions would have such adverse impacts is stunningly impossible.

You’re a state with a proven record of voter fraud that wants to quash this. Fine. But if their intent was honestly to curb voter fraud these restrictions look more like the State brought a machine gun to a knife fight.

What are these state-wide rushes to reform voting processes always about? Voter fraud, the integrity of the election process, restoring public confidence? Yes, those things are important and while it would seem as if North Carolina must’ve had an outbreak of recent voter fraud, according the Judge Motz “the State has failed to identify even a single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud.”

Further disproving the state’s genuine interest in thwarting fraud, the only evidence of actual voter fraud has been with mail-in absentee ballots, but you’ll note not one of the provisions repaired this alleged problem. According to the opinion, “Notably, the legislature also had evidence that absentee voting was not used by African-Americans; indeed, whites disproportionately use absentee voting.”

The three judge panel reversed the decision of the lower court and would’ve likely recommend the case be remanded back to the state and lower court for revision or reconsideration. Not this time. Writing that a remand “would accomplish little,” they, in essence repealed the law and gave no second chances.

While the Judges could’ve sanctioned the State by putting them back under a Section 5 pre-clearance requirement, they stopped short of going that far. The next steps for North Carolina are to either request an en banc hearing in which all the judges at the 4th Circuit would rehear the case, or they could appeal to the Supreme Court. It’s likely that even if they got four Justices to grant a hearing of the case they would end up with a 4-4 decision, which would leave this decision in place.

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81 thoughts on “NC voter laws ruled intentionally discriminatory by 4th Circuit Court”

  1. In Texas the prior requirement was to have your registration ID that they sent to your home. NO photo ID was required. In addition, when you register you have to provide your Social Security number to validate that you are who you say you are. The problem is that in order to get a photo ID, if you do not have a car or cannot drive, you have to take a cab, a bus, a day off of work since all the DPS offices are not on public transportation lines and are only out in the burbs. I will be impressed with the desire to curb voting fraud, when I see the GOP stop allowing their voters to vote multiple times. The Congressman from Texas 22nd District voted twice in a Presidential election when he was living in VA. He voted absentee in CT, and in person in VA. How about THAT folks?

  2. “Voters are exempt (1) who swear they have a religious objection to being photographed or (2) who use curbside voting because of their age or physical disability. Instead of a photo, these voters may show a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government document with name and current address. ”
    The above is from the NC ID requirements:
    “Note especially from above:
    Voters are exempt (1) who swear they have a religious objection to being photographed or (2) who use curbside voting because of their age or physical disability. Instead of a photo, these voters may show a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government document with name and current address. ”
    Hard to see how much more accomodating it can be to the old, infirm black or white voters

  3. Well, there is NO need to worry about the voter ID law being overturned since Montgomery County Texas will ignore the ruling any way. AS I have mentioned previously, a friend of ours tried to change her voting address from Dallas to our area. The folks in Dallas thought the form was good enough to take her OFF the rolls, but Montgomery County said it was not enough. They refused to let her registration go through since she did not have a picture ID. This even though she had her old voter ID card, PLUS the form she sent in. This was before the photo ID law was passed. Thus the GOP folks simply SPIT on the law, and refused to let her register since she is Hispanic as is her name. The law is only for Democrats to obey. The GOP gets a free pass to do whatever they wish.

    We have a real voter fraud problem with people voting in TWO states. If you wish to combat voter fraud, pass a law so that states can check the registration between states. Del Rio, which is overwhelming Mexican American, elected a GOP sheriff who was proud member of the KKK. The reason was that Laughlin AFB is there, and so many of the trainees used it as their home address, that they swamped the local voters. Then we have the snowbirds who come down to the Valley in the winter who vote absentee at home, and then vote in person in Texas.

  4. Voter IDs are a great idea. Trying to suppress voter turnout is a bad idea. The North Carolina law that was thankfully overturned was about the latter.

  5. “The Dems require photo ID to enter their own convention, and are very strict about it. Suddenly, photo ID is not racist.” Karen if you are talking about the national convention, the Secret Service needs to know who is in attendance.

  6. I enjoy the 2nd Amendment, but I do not expect the government to buy me a gun and deliver it to me, all registered and cleaned, with just the right balance and heft and a manageable recoil, loaded, with a nice new safe to keep it in. I have to actually put in a little effort if I want to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights.

  7. ·”Provision three eliminated same-day voter registration, an effort that disproportionately affected blacks who are more likely to move and need to re-register and vote on the same day.” Why would blacks be disorganized? Why did the Court rule that was a racial characteristic? That doesn’t make sense to me. It is so easy to register to vote. You can do it online (at a public library if you lack a computer), on an Obamaphone, at the post office, at the DMV, and through various initiatives. They even have voter drives. Why wait until the last day unless they were moving on that day? And even then, they could vote by mail. I think the only reason why blacks would be disproportionately affected is because too many minorities suffer from poverty, and the poor are often working multiple jobs and may not have time to do literally anything.

    My concern is that same day registration makes it very difficult to weed out fraud, and there are many ways to commit voter fraud. Journalists write about that often in CA, conducting interviews where many illegal aliens say they voted, and had no idea they were not supposed to. (Line jumping means they don’t get as many opportunities to learn our laws.)

    On the one hand, I want us to protect the vote from fraud, which disenfranchises voters from having a say. That means culling all fraudulent entries in the voting roles and requiring photo ID. Ever read about all the “dead people” who vote? It’ll make you a believer in The Walking Dead. I am not opposed to requiring voters to exert at least a reasonable effort to vote, such as writing down their answers on their vote by mail ballot and getting it in the mail. I have the Constitutional right of free speech, but the government is not required to knock on my door and order me to “speak!” about important issues and exercise that right. I have to actually exert myself to enjoy those rights.

    On the other hand, I also want every legal voter to have the chance to vote. I support vote by mail, which would be the optimal solution for those planning on moving around election day. There are initiatives in every state, the last time I checked, which assisted voters – helping them get IDs, transportation to the polls, among many other support. This is a great idea. Another reason why I support assistance in getting photo IDs is that citizens require one in order to engage in many routine activities – cashing a check, getting a job, driving a car, opening a bank account, getting documents such as wills and medical power of attorneys notarized, and many other activities. My husband and I bought a mattress, and I was asked for my photo ID even though I used my Debit Card and entered my PIN. You just can’t function in the US without an ID. If African Americans disproportionately don’t have an ID, then the solution is not to prohibit IDs. The solution is to help as many people as possible get IDs. Again, it is likely that the reason why minorities lack ID is that too many are poor, and the poor have enough on their plate making ends meet and may not have a second of free time to get an ID.

    I wish there was that fabled unicorn, the unbiased person, who could examine voter laws and make sure that they are fair and also protect against voter fraud. When Democrats claim that you should be able to vote without a photo ID, or use your gym membership card, that’s pure politics. The Dems require photo ID to enter their own convention, and are very strict about it. Suddenly, photo ID is not racist.

  8. @squeek

    I think you are defining reverse racism which as you rightly point out does keep people down. Minorities eating their own while they maintain power. I see the same thing in the uber feminist camp – Albright and Steinem berating women who choose not to vote for HRC because she has the same genetilia.

    As long as the establishment can continue to divide us against each other they will succeed.

  9. Australia requires all citizens to vote. Even ex pats have to vote. There is a stiff penalty for those who do not vote.

    Personally I wish all voters in the US who vote have to offer at least 2 reasons ON the issues. So the dummies voting the brand cause their preachers (white/black/brown) or corrupt pols tell them to do so would be vetted accordingly.

  10. @Mike

    Can you define “racist” for me? Because it means different things to different people. Then I can answer your question. Because to some people, saying bad things about blacks is “racist.” And if that is your definition, then I am guilty as charged! Although I just call that being realistic.

    Other people think a racist is is somebody who believes that some races are just inherently inferior, as a matter of genetics. And that those races just can’t keep up with us white folks. I say “white folks”, because some people say blacks and hispanics can’t even be racist. If that is your definition, then I don’t think I am a racist.

    In that case, I would think the racists are instead, the people who excuse the savage ghetto behavior of blacks, the ones who pretend the savage behavior does not exist, the ones who presume blacks are too stupid to be able to get photo ID, the ones who pretend that the 75% illegitimate birth rate is just peachy, and the ones who invent stupid stuff like White Privilege because they are afraid to confront their own inherent racism.

    Sooo, could you define “racist” for me???


    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  11. As a 35-year Paramedic, the (very few) people I’ve dealt with, who had no valid ID, are people far too mentally sluggish, to be allowed to vote. That is, in an intellectually honest society.

    The vast majority of countries are considerably wiser on this subject than the U.S. They require voter ID — usually photo ID — to prevent fraud and duplicate votes at the polls. Our neighbors do. Canada requires voter ID. Mexico’s “Credencial para Votar” has a hologram, a photo, and other information embedded in it, and it is impossible to effectively tamper with. Confidence in the integrity of elections has soared since its introduction in the 1990s.

    You see, Mexico is a real fan of ID within their borders – they just don’t think the U.S. should play by the same rules they do. A wise society learns from its neighbors. We are not a wise society.

    Consider that 8 years ago, the Supreme Court, in a 6–3 decision written by liberal favorite John Paul Stevens, declared that voter-ID laws do NOT constitute an undue burden on people attempting to vote. But that hasn’t stopped liberals from fighting in legislatures and courts against those laws and other efforts to promote voter integrity. The lawsuits are often brought by Marc Elias, who doubles as the attorney for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. And their efforts have paid off: Only about 18 states currently require a photo ID to vote.

    Only a fool – or somebody with a nefarious agenda – would buy into the nonsense that this effort has anything to do with poor “disenfranchised” folks.

    Rather, it has everything to do with the immorality of stuffing the ballot boxes. A steadily-burgeoning populace with their hands out, in constant need of a government-parent, is liberal Nirvana.

    But the end-result is societal quagmire and middle-class nightmare.

    We reap what we sow.

  12. @Paul Schulte

    Lets hope his children realize they were sold out and their anger great enough to vote for Trump to spite Bernie, Hilly and the DNC. They might think about going over and broker a real deal?

  13. I have to disagree that the inner workings of a political party to select a their candidate can include under-handedness, bias, and corruption and that is considered to be a necessary process. Instead, a party that engages in internal corruption cannot be trusted to maintain the integrity of a general election. The same mens rea in the mind of men will certainly transfer to their approach with elections.

    In fact, after admitting to rigging the party selection process to disadvantage Mr. Sanders to the benefit of Hillary Clinton I believe the DNC cannot be trusted to participate in the oversight of the election process.

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