After listening to Gov. Pat McCrory talk about the recent decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn much of the voter suppression law he signed in 2013 you are left with only two explanations.
Either he hasn’t read the decision himself or he has read it and isn’t troubled by the startling evidence it cited to throw out the law.
The decision said that legislative leaders, emboldened by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, asked for a “breakdown by race of DMV-issued ID ownership, absentee voting, early voting, same-day registration, and provisional voting (which includes out-of-precinct voting).”
Then they crafted a bill to limit access to the ballot by changing the voting methods predominantly used by African-Americans. They exempted absentee voting, which is not used disproportionately by black voters, from the photo ID requirement.
There’s only one conclusion to draw, the same one the appeals courts drew. The leaders of the General Assembly passed legislation intentionally designed to make it more difficult for African-Americans to vote. And Gov. McCrory enthusiastically signed it.
There is no way to argue otherwise. The intent was not to address in-person voter fraud, which studies have shown is exceedingly rare. That’s clear too from the decision not to toughen the requirements for absentee voting — where fraud is mostly likely to occur.
And why would legislative leaders ask for voter data broken down by race in the first place? What does that have to with fraud?
McCrory has repeatedly railed against the decision with various versions of a single talking point, that the voter ID requirement makes sense since you need a photo ID to buy Sudafed and board an airplane.
Nevermind that there’s no constitutional right to buy Sudafed or get on a plane as many opponents of the voter suppression have pointed out. The reason the law includes a voter ID requirement for in-person voting is that African-Americans are more likely not to have one.
And McCrory never mentions the other aspects of the law that he apparently thinks is vital to our democracy. What is the possible rationale for ending same-day registration at early voting sites?
It can’t be fraud since voters registering for the first time do have to show photo identification. And why shorten early voting by seven days or eliminate provisional voting?
That’s not about fraud either.
The law was never about fraud. It was about making it far less likely that certain segments of the population would vote, the folks that historically have been disenfranchised.
It used to be poll taxes and literacy tests. Now it’s more sophisticated. It’s about data broken down by race and new targeted restrictions applied to specific voting methods.
And it’s not just North Carolina’s voter suppression law that has prompted the courts to step in. Courts have recently ruled against similar tactics in other states too, including Wisconsin and Texas.
The effort in North Carolina was the most sweeping though, the most carefully crafted attempt to influence elections by making it more difficult for people of color to vote. The court said legislative leaders used “surgical precision” to target African-American voters.
And the battle is not over with the decision by the federal appeals court, not even close. It has merely moved to the county level, where local elections boards are setting the rules for early voting and determining where early voting sites are located.
Republicans hold the majority on every county election board because there is a Republican governor. And the folks at the local level in many areas are now balking at allowing Sunday voting or having early voting sites in African-American neighborhoods or on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities.
They are trying to accomplish the same thing the federal appeals court stepped in to prevent.
McCrory said this week that he planned to ask U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts to intervene and keep North Carolina’s voter suppression law in place for the November election.
He is apparently determined to pull out all the stops to make sure it’s harder to vote — for a certain segment of the population.
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.