Mountain Xpress provided a valuable resource to our community in its recently published article on the new state voter ID law [“Show Your Face: Confusion at Polls Feared as New Voter ID Law Takes Effect,” Dec. 2].
First, a few salient points from the constitutional challenge to the law by the ACLU, NAACP and the U.S. Justice Department. Most worthy of scrutiny were the voter ID requirements and other suppression measures involving a significant curtailing of early voting (African-Americans on a percentage basis outnumber white voters in early voting), elimination of same-day voter registration and eliminating preregistration of 16 to 17-year-olds. All harken back to Jim Crow laws and practices. While not as egregious as Jim Crow poll taxes and literacy tests, the intent and result are the same: disenfranchisement and disproportionate burden on African-Americans, Latina/os, the poor and the young.
The federal court challenge to the new restrictions is under advisement and awaiting a decision following a court trial this past summer. Trials, as we know, are about evidence and facts. Professor Lorraine Minnite testified that her 2000-2014 review of North Carolina voting records demonstrates there were two voter impersonation fraud referrals to county district attorneys during a period when 35 million ballots were counted in primary and federal elections.
In your article, Susan Myrick of the Civitas Institute (North Carolina’s conservative voice) asserts that voter fraud has been a real problem in North Carolina. She mentions that when voters die or move, they remain on the voter rolls. Whether fraud accompanies this situation is pure speculation, as it is unclear how much of it takes place and how many people, if any, take advantage of it, given that fraudulent voting in North Carolina is a felony.
The voter ID requirement continues to sow confusion and concern in our community. Consider young men stopped by the police, questioned and then released without an arrest. Might these young men nevertheless think there may be an outstanding warrant, and by showing ID they run the risk of arrest in the near future? This situation occurring may be very remote, but a young person distrustful of law enforcement may be deterred from showing up at a government desk and providing identification. And why should they have to experience any fear for voting in their district?
The evidence surrounding voter ID comes down on the side of suppression of the vote rather than combating widespread voter fraud. Years ago, women could not vote, African-Americans could not vote, men under age 21 could not vote. Our history must be about increasing access to the ballot. When people have access to the ballot, it reinforces our basic democratic values. Let’s reaffirm “one person, one vote,” not legalize “some persons, some votes.”
— Curry First