As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 this week, a new fight for voting rights has been emerging nationwide – and most prominently in North Carolina. Leadership from the state’s NAACP chapter, legal advocates, and several partner organizations have been engaged in a battle for the voting rights of citizens, which hang in jeopardy by way of an upcoming injunction hearing.
On Monday, the first of the hearings related to the restrictive voting laws in the state will be held at the Middle District Federal Court in Winston-Salem. The North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, civil rights group Advancement Project, and the law firm of Kirkland and Ellis are mounting a challenge to the measure.
On a media call on Tuesday was N.C. NAACP Chapter President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair, and attorney and North Carolina Central Law School Professor Irv Joyner, where they discussed the changes to the voting laws, which included a shortening of the early voting period by one week, eliminating same day voting registration, and other provisions that disenfranchise voters of color and the poor.
The days of Jim Crow laws are long gone, but the Republican segment of the legislature and North Carolina’s governor claim that voting reform is necessary in the state, even though evidence of fraud is negligent at best. With the largest impact of the voting laws felt by younger voters, especially with the ID requirement, there have been moves made by advocates to support the growing numbers in that demographic.
The changes in the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 by the Supreme Court last year, which removed the pre-clearance requirement by all states before making voting law changes, led the way for 22 states to make restrictions. Pre-clearance forced jurisdictions to receive federal approval for any changes made to voting laws. Although there was an amendment introduced at the top of the year that would bring back pre-clearance, Congress has stalled on moving it through.
Barber addressed this issue during the media call, stating clearly that pre-clearance is necessary particularly in the South, where the history of voting rights stands at its most controversial. He also mentioned that for the past 61 weeks, he and others in the Forward Together Moral Movement have been galvanized in their fight against the voter suppression bill.
NewsOne asked Barber to elaborate on his statement regarding pre-clearance to which he responded:
“This case shows what the southern legislature are willing to do without pre-clearance. When they know that they can pass a law, and it doesn’t have to be pre-cleared, and it puts the burden of litigation on the people, we can see exactly what they can do. This is not Republicanism, we call it ‘extremism.’ Matter of fact, many Republicans have used many of the laws they’re trying to strike down now. Many of us know extremists believe the only way they can win elections is to suppress the right to vote.”
The Forward Together Moral Movement, made up of 200 partner organizations, will join together in a march 5:30 p.m. at Corpening Plaza. Get more information here.