North Carolina Voter ID Bill in the National Spotlight

By Shoshannah Sayers, Deputy Director

The North Carolina General Assemby recently passed a new set of voting rules that will disenfranchise an estimated 319,000 North Carolina voters, 30% of whom are African American. North Carolina voter id bill is gaining national attention because it will be the most restrictive voter id laws passed by any state in the country. SCSJ will fight to the end to ensure that every eligible voter is able to exercise their fundamental right. Here is the story of just one of the voters who effectively lost their right to vote thanks to the new Voter ID bill.

Alberta Currie is the Great-Granddaughter of slaves. Mrs. Currie, her parents, and her children all worked picking cotton and tobacco in the fields of Robeson County NC. She is the mother of seven, 78 years old, and does not have a birth certificate because she was born at home. She has voted consistently since she first became eligible to vote in 1956. She does not have a photo ID and cannot obtain one in North Carolina without a birth certificate.

When Mrs. Currie first went to vote in 1956, election officials made black voters wait until whites had voted while keeping them standing at the back of the line. In 2012, she and her daughters stood in line to be the first ones to vote on the date that early voting opened. When it was her turn, local election officials told her that she better not come back to vote unless she gets a picture id. She and her family consider it a matter of personal dignity to be able to go in person and vote. It is one thing that lets them say to the world that they are equal to everyone else.

Her is an excerpt of Alberta’s interview with CBS News;

Long Time NC Voter Alberta Currie
Long Time NC Voter Alberta Currie

But the North Carolina bill, entitled the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA), goes much further. It rolls back the increasingly popular early voting period from 17 days to 10 days, even though 61 percent of ballots in 2012 were cast before election day. The bill outlaws early voting on Sunday, which is particularly popular with predominantly black churches bussing “souls to the polls.”

In 2012 in North Carolina, Democrats cast 47 percent of the early votes, and Republicans cast 32 percent, according to a CBS News analysis.

The North Carolina bill repeals same-day registration, which allowed 100,000 North Carolinians to register and vote early in one stop in 2008 and again in 2012. In last year’s general election, about 1,300 of those same day registrants, or one-and-a-half percent, could not be verified after the votes were counted, according to the State Board of Elections. Read Full Article

On July 25, 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly passed harsh new rules that will prevent hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians like Alberta from voting.

Here are some of the ways the new law will affect all NC voters:

  1. The early voting period will be shortened by a week, from 17 days to 10.
  2. Same-day registration during the early voting period will be eliminated.
  3. Straight-party ticket voting will be eliminated.
  4. Sixteen and seventeen year olds will no longer be able to pre-register to vote.
  5. College IDs – even from state universities – will not be acceptable forms of identification to vote.
  6. Out of precinct voting will no longer be allowed.
  7. Counties will no longer be able to extend voting hours due to long lines or other extraordinary circumstances.
  8. Political party chairpersons will be allowed to appoint up to 12 poll “observers” to monitor the polling places and to challenge voters they suspect of voter fraud.
  9. New restrictions make it much more difficult to set up satellite polling stations, which will make it more difficult for elderly and disabled North Carolinians to vote.

What you can do:

  • Educate yourself and your community about this bill – what it means and what it doesn’t mean. The requirement to have a state-issued photo ID to vote doesn’t go into effect until 2016 – that’s four years away. Make sure everyone knows that they can still vote without photo ID until that time.
  • Stay informed about the law. Great resources for updated information include Democracy North Carolina and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice www.scsj.org.
  • Help people get the ID they need – if you know someone in NC who doesn’t have access to state-issued photo ID, encourage them to call the Southern Coalition for Social Justice at 919-323-3380 x 152 so we can help them get the documentation they need to vote.
  • Make a donation to help overturn the voter suppression legislation. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is filing lawsuits in state and federal court to stop this law from taking effect. Limiting early voting, eliminating same-day registration, requiring state-issued photo ID, and other provisions of the bill will directly affect too many voters, and bring no measurable benefit to NC elections. Please help us fight for every North Carolinian’s right to vote. Your donation makes it possible for us to provide the best legal assistance to every individual affected by the new Voter ID law. With your help, we can make North Carolina a state where every eligible voter can exercise the franchise. Click here to learn more or donate.

On July 29, 2013 SCSJ staff attorney Allison Riggs appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show to discuss these issues. Below is Allison’s interview with guest host Melissa Harris Perry.

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Shoshannah Sayers

Shoshannah Sayers is the Deputy Director at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Graduating from UNC Chapel Hill School of Law in 2004, Shoshannah immediately went into civil rights work as a Post-Doctoral Scholar at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, where she worked on public education reform and voting rights matters. She then spent a year at the Center for Community Action in Lumberton, North Carolina, doing community organizing and policy analysis for the grassroots nonprofit. View all posts by Shoshannah Sayers

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