Thursday, September 1, 2016
“Purely Bogus… Politics is a Contact Sport.”
Like so many of the 11 states released from federal supervision over changes in their voting practices by a 2013 Supreme Court decision, North Carolina leaped into what the GOP-controlled legislature and the 100% GOP-controlled county election boards knew had to happen to keep minorities away from the ballot box. Knowing that the poorer members of their state and those inner city voters more-likely-to-vote Democratic, the legislature decided that voter ID laws were necessary to prevent non-existent “voter fraud.” That these segments of the state were less like to have driver’s licenses, the prevalent acceptable voter ID, was just peachy.
You may have read that North Carolina just might swing Democratic in the upcoming election, so making sure liberal members of the electorate could not easily vote became the Republican goal. But that nasty voter ID law they passed almost immediately after the above Supreme Court ruling was thrown out by a federal appeals court (sustained by a divided Supreme Court) for its less-than-subtle-intention of excluding minority voters… just in time for the November election. The appeals court noted that the law was enacted “with almost surgical precision” to blunt the influence of African American voters. However, before those almost disenfranchised voters could celebrate, GOP-controlled county election boards decided that they could still make voting very tough for those that the new voter ID laws were intended to shut down.
“When a federal appeals court overturned much of North Carolina’s sweeping 2013 election law [in July], saying it had been deliberately intended to discourage African-Americans from voting, something else was tossed out as well: the ground rules for this year’s elections in a critical swing state. In each of the state’s 100 counties, local elections boards scheduled new hearings and last week filed the last of their new election rules with the state.
“Now, critics are accusing some of the boards, all of which are controlled by Republicans, of staging an end run around a court ruling they are supposed to carry out. Like the law that was struck down, say voting rights advocacy groups and some Democrats who are contesting the rewritten election plans, many election plans have been intentionally written to suppress the black vote.
“‘It is equal to voter suppression in its worst way,’ said Courtney Patterson, the sole Democrat on the Lenoir County elections board… He was referring to a proposal by the board’s two Republicans to allow 106.5 hours of early voting before the Nov. 8 election — less than a quarter of the time allowed in the 2012 presidential election — and to limit early balloting to a single polling place in the county seat of a largely rural eastern North Carolina county that sprawls over 403 square miles.
“In a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans by better than two to one, and four in 10 voters are black, the election plan limits voting to a single weekend day, and on weekdays demands that residents, including those who are poor and do not own cars, make long trips to cast a ballot.
“Republicans, who wrote and passed the 2013 law and control all 100 county election boards, deny the rules reflect anything inappropriate… ‘Purely bogus,’ Robin C. Hayes, the state Republican Party chairman, said [August 30th] in an interview. ‘In fact, we’re working hard to increase the vote from every region and from every interest group. And by the way, no great surprise: We want them to vote Republican.’… Politics is a contact sport, he added, and no one should be surprised that Republicans and Democrats alike try to stage elections on terms that favor their party.” New York Times, August 30th. Where there are conflicts or unresolved issues between parties at a local level, as is the case with 34 out of 100 voting districts, the GOP-controlled State Election Board makes the decision. Guess which way it is deciding?
By resurrecting many of the secondary restrictions – aside from the voter ID requirement itself – that the federal court found discriminatory, Republicans are clearly going to do everything they can to keep Democrats away from the ballot box, however they can. “[When] the appeals court ordered counties to restore the early voting period to 17 days, it left decisions about the number of polling places and their operating hours up to local election boards. The result is that some of the newly proposed election plans explicitly cut voting hours below previous levels, and outlaw Sunday voting altogether.” NY Times.
We’re never going to justify past parallel practices by carpet bagging Democrats a long time ago, but intentional disenfranchisement of minority voters was, is and will always be both repugnant and violative of every basic political right we, as Americans, hold dear. Make the bad man stop!
I’m Peter Dekom, and I suspect that the Republicans sense a changing demographic tide that will render their white conservative values the rather distinctive and soon-to-be-obsolete minority vision of America… but antagonizing the future majority of minorities cannot be a good idea for them.