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Activists sue to overturn N.C. voter suppression law

CASH M ICHAELS | 8/26/2013, midnight
William Barber, president of the state NAACP-North Carolina Branch, stands with members of the organization, Monday. NAACP-N.C.

The Carolinian Newspaper

RALEIGH, N.C. (NNPA) – When Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 589 last week, the controversial Voter Information Verification Act, he said in an op-ed published in The News and Observer, “The common sense election reforms I just signed into law will protect the integrity of one of the most precious rights guaranteed in our state constitution, the right to vote.”

But the ink from the Republican governor’s signature was barely dry before a litany of progressive civil rights groups, led by the North Carolina NAACP, were lining up at the federal courthouse door, filing separate lawsuits to stop what they say are unconstitutional “voter suppression” measures to impose unwarranted voter photo ID, and end same day voter registration, Sunday voting, straight-ticket voting and pre-voter registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

“The N.C. NAACP, on behalf of all our branches and members, filed a complaint, along with [92-year-old] Mrs. Rosanell Eaton, and other plaintiffs … against the governor of North Carolina in Middle District Federal Court,” Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, told reporters at the group’s Durham headquarters.

“The legal challenge is filed by the North Carolina NAACP,” Barber continued. “It charges that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership in one of the language minority groups. The suit also challenges the law under the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.”

“This bill is not just about voter ID requirements,” Barber maintained. “It is 57 pages of regressive, unconstitutional acts to rig and manipulate elections through voter suppression. Our lawsuit will show how this voter suppression bill in its many eerie elements, revisits the tactics of Jim Crow in the 21st century are a form of what we have called for months James Crow Esquire tactics because each suppression tactic has a disproportionate, disparate and discriminatory impact especially on African Americans and other minorities. This act of the Legislature and governor is about race, an outright attempt to manipulate voting, and the result of voting through suppressing the African American vote and the votes of others that expand the electorate in ways not often favorable to the support of a narrow and extreme political agenda.”

Rosanell Eaton, 92, told reporters that what the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly had done in passing the voter restrictions bill was “evil.”

The NAACP wasn’t the only group hauling McCrory into court. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, and the Southern Coalition for Justice also filed suit.

“The suit specifically targets provisions of the law that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit ‘out-of-precinct’ voting,” a statement from the plaintiffs states. “[Our suit] seeks to stop North Carolina from enacting these provisions, arguing that they would unduly burden the right to vote and discriminate against African-American voters, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”