If you think that all of the so-called Voter Identification Laws being passed in most Red States are designed to prevent in-person voter fraud, you only need look at the North Carolina law to know differently. In Winston-Salem, there is a hearing in Federal Court taking place where opponents of this law are seeking an injunction so this law cannot be enforced during the 2014 elections. The law was challenged by the U.S. Justice Department and other groups, but the full trial won’t take place until 2015.
The Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) was passed and signed into law by Republican Governor Patrick McCrory. It is the most restrictive voter law passed in the U.S. to date. The amazing thing about this law, was that originally, it only covered Voter ID requirements. It passed the State’s House in April of 2013. But it languished in the State’s Senate until after the SCOTUS ruling on the Voter Rights Act on June 25 of 2013.
Immediately after the ruling, Sen. Tom Apodaca (R), the chairman of the Senate Rules committee, was quoted as saying, “Now we can go with the full bill.” On July 23, 2013, House Bill 589 expanded from 16 pages to 57 pages and included a number of other provisions, including reducing the days for early voting. The expanded bill passed both the House and Senate on July 25. McCrory signed the legislation into law on Aug. 12.
This bill expanded from 16 pages to 57 pages and they had a full two days to “debate” the law. There is no other way to put this, but there was no real debate on the bill. It was a forgone conclusion that the bill would pass. This bill was obviously waiting for the SCOTUS ruling. Once SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act, the Republicans dusted off what they really wanted, and passed it.
Some other provisions that were included is the repeal of party block voting. In other words, you cannot vote straight Democratic or Republican. You must go down the list of every candidate and vote for each one individually. That may not sound like a big deal, but a lot of people from parties actually do block vote.
Another deletion from the bill was the “Stand By Your Ad” clause. This clause originally tried to make sure that ads were factual and truthful. This new VIVA eliminated that clause from the law. So, I guess now you can lie all you want in ads and don’t have to “Stand By Your Ad” anymore.
The Voter ID provisions, which do not take effect until 2016, lists certain photo IDs that are acceptable. One ID that has been removed is College Student ID Cards. So, if you attend North Carolina University, and do not have a driver’s license, you can no longer use your school’s ID to prove who you are. I guess that goes hand-in-hand with the fact that the law also closes down all of the on-campus polling places. Students will have to leave their campus to vote.
That is made tougher by the reduction in “early voting” days. It also eliminates the Sunday before the election from the early voting period and ends early voting on the Saturday before the election at 1 PM. Since that Sunday was traditionally the “Souls To The Polls” day, it makes it more difficult for churches to organize mass voting of their members on that day. That was truly offensive to Republicans because most of these churches who participate in “souls to the polls” are predominantly African-American.
If you don’t have a driver’s license, military ID, Retired military ID, Veterans ID, or passport, you MUST have a state issued ID card in order to vote. Most people say that is not all that difficult. Except, North Carolina charges a fee to get a State Issued ID card. Plus, most people will be required to provide a Birth Certificate to prove they are alive. If you don’t have a copy of you Birth Certificate, that adds to the cost of the “fee” for getting and ID Card.
Plus, many people in North Carolina live in rural areas. All small towns in these areas do not have offices who issue driver’s licenses or state IDs. Many people need to travel anywhere between 30 and 60 miles to get to an office. Doesn’t sound too bad, except, how is a person without a driver’s license supposed to get to one of these offices? There isn’t any bus service in these areas.
Additionally, if you are over 70 you can use an expired driver’s license to vote, as long as it expired less than 30 days before the election day. If it expired more than 30 days before the election, you cannot vote unless you get one of those State ID Cards. Most people over 70 that I know, don’t even think about getting a State ID Card after they no longer drive. And, before everyone says their family can take them, a lot of elderly people don’t have family living nearby.
A very disturbing portion of the VIVA to me, is that any registered voter can challenge another person’s right to vote. For example, if I was at the polling place, and a neighbor I hate came in to vote, I could challenge his right to vote. Once I made the challenge, he would be allowed to cast a “provisional” ballot. I see this provision as nothing more than an intimidation factor. The real scary part is that the law does not say registered voter in that precinct. That opens the door for “operatives” to go around challenging other people’s right to vote.
Finally, they also eliminated “Same Day Registration”. In North Carolina, you were able to go and register to vote, during the early voting period, and then immediately cast your ballot. With the elimination of Same Day Registration, you now have to make two trips. One to register and one to vote.
All of these provisions have one common goal. They are intended to make it more difficult for the poor, young, and elderly to cast votes. Why? Because those are the groups that predominantly vote Democratic. North Carolina Republicans are so afraid of losing their grip on power, they are willing to disenfranchise thousands of people who may vote against them.
For example, the reduction in early voting will affect up to 56% of North Carolina voters. That is how many used early voting in the 2012 elections. Blacks used early voting at a higher rate than whites, comprising a majority of those who voted absentee or early. According to Public Policy Polling, 78 percent of North Carolinians support the current early voting system and 75 percent have used it in the past.
In addition, over 155,000 voters registered to vote and voted on the same day during the early voting period in 2012. Voters expressed their satisfaction and gratitude that North Carolina had a process that afforded citizens with more opportunities to register and vote, said a 2009 report from the state board of elections.
The law was passed in the name of “protecting the ballot box from voter fraud”. I went through the court records since 2012 and I cannot find one single case of “voter fraud” being prosecuted. In person Voter Fraud is becoming a thing of the past in the state and the country as a whole. There is far more potential for voter fraud in absentee ballots than in-person voting. Yet, these laws do not place the same restriction on absentee ballots. I wonder if maybe that is because most absentee ballots are cast by white people.
It is estimated that it will take at least until the end of the week before the hearing in Winston-Salem wraps up. No one knows how quickly the judge will rule on the injunction. Of course, the whole nation is watching. Especially since it comes on the heals of a Federal Judge striking down Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law as unconstitutional.
Once again, if you think this has to do with protecting the ballot box, all you have to do is listen to Sen. Tom Apodaca, the chairman of the Senate Rules committee, after the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act saying, “Now we can go with the full bill.” He knew this bill would never pass muster if had to be pre-cleared by Justice.