As New Yorkers prepare to hit the road for the nation’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington this Saturday, the recent passage of voting laws in several states not only demonstrates the need for the march, but also elicits questions about how far the nation has come.
A report released this month by the Brennan Center for Justice reveals that some state legislators continue to push laws that would make it harder for eligible American citizens to vote. As of this month, restrictive voting bills have been introduced in more than half the states, including 82 restrictive bills introduced in 31 states, and seven restrictive bills are still pending in four states.
One recent example is last week’s signing of HB 589, commonly referred to as the “voter photo ID law” by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. North Carolina joins the majority of states in adopting this and other election reform provisions with 34 states requiring some form of ID to vote. The photo ID requirement will go into effect for the 2016 elections.
“North Carolinians overwhelmingly support a common sense law that requires voters to present photo identification in order to cast a ballot. I am proud to sign this legislation into law,” said McCrory. “Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID, and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote.”
The law also shortens early voting, ends early registration for teens and ends same-day voter registration. The NAACP, ACLU and the Southern Coalition for Justice are legally challenging the bill.
North Carolina NAACP President the Rev. Dr. William Barber called the ruling a step back into Jim Crow.
“We have had 18 million votes studied and found really no cases of fraud that would have been because of voter ID,” Barber said in one interview. “This is just voter suppression straight up.”
“This law is a disaster. Eliminating a huge part of early voting will cut off voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of citizens and turn Election Day into a mess, shoving more and more voters into even longer lines,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several North Carolinians who will face substantial hardship under the law, and on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, North Carolina Common Cause and Unifour Onestop Collaborative.
North Carolinians use early voting in vast numbers. During the 2012 election, 2.5 million ballots were cast during the early voting period, representing more than half the total electorate. More than 70 percent of African-American voters utilized early voting during the 2008 and 2012 general elections.