Voter fraud was never a worry for the N.C. Republican Party until blacks started voting in large numbers and Barack Obama won the state in 2008. The GOP stoked fears about voter fraud, but their concern was never actually about fraud; it was about trying to deter certain groups of people — in this case, black people — from voting. Look at the evidence.
In 2013, the N.C. General Assembly passed an omnibus voter ID bill (ultimately overruled) that required a state-approved photo ID for voting. The bill also eliminated or curtailed certain voting practices like early voting.
As the bill was challenged in court, it became clear that what the Republican legislators really wanted was to knock down the black vote. Here is what the court found.
During pretrial discovery, the civil rights parties arguing against the bill found emails and other documents by legislators requesting voter data, broken down by race, from the Department of Motor Vehicles and state Board of Elections.
The evidence shows that the legislators then wrote a bill that eliminated or curtailed voting practices predominantly used by blacks and required IDs that black voters were less likely to have than white voters. The legislature didn’t require IDs at all for mail-in absentee ballots, used predominantly by white voters, even though they are susceptible to voter fraud.
The decision on the ruling is summarized in excerpts from a Charlotte Observer editorial, July 30, 2016, “4th Circuit Ruling Exposes the Real N.C. Voting Fraud” [avl.mx/53i]:
“On Friday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down our state’s election law with a blistering ruling that laid bare the ‘discriminatory intent’ of our lawmakers. That’s right. A three-judge panel said that N.C. Republicans intended to discriminate against black citizens.
“The judges then described, with evidence, exactly how lawmakers did it:
“Before enacting the 2013 law, lawmakers requested data on the use, by race, of several voting practices, according to the ruling. Lawmakers learned, for example, that blacks disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID, those issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, but did have other kinds of photo IDs.
“With that info, lawmakers proceeded to change an existing N.C. voting bill so that it excluded many forms of ID blacks did possess, while making acceptable the kinds of ID whites possessed most.
“Lawmakers also found in the research that blacks used early voting at greater rates than whites, and that in particular, blacks disproportionately used the first seven days of early voting. After getting this info, the General Assembly killed the first seven days of early voting.
“And so it went, for same day registration and preregistration and provisional voting.”
That’s what the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found, and the court overturned the bill because it violated the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment
Now, the Republican NCGA is back. In order to give a gloss of public approval to voter discrimination by Republicans, this time they want a state constitutional amendment to require the photo ID. If the amendment passes, legislators will have to fill in the details. And again, they will likely try to write a bill to deter certain groups of Americans from voting. Look at their record and be prepared. By the way, it won’t be helpful to call Republican legislators racists. Just lay out the facts to the voters. Most voters, even many Republicans, may see that the NCGA was wrong and shouldn’t try to pass this kind of bill again.
— Chris Walters
Editor’s note: On June 29, the legislature decided to ask voters whether to approve a constitutional amendment requiring photo IDs for in-person voting — though without details about what, exactly, those requirements would be. If voters approve the amendment in November, the General Assembly would fill in those details in a bill to be written later.