Last Friday, a judge denied a preliminary injunction, which would have staved off the state’s voter suppression law, H.B. 589, from this November’s general elections. The ruling was a blow to the attorneys and supporters fighting against the law, but they have promised to regroup in response to the court’s ruling.
The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement has been active on the ground by combating one of the most-oppressive voting laws in state history. Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled that the plaintiffs in the case provided legal claims that will give way to a full trial to take place next summer.
The legal team who challenged H.B. 589 on behalf of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP appeared on a media call Monday to address Judge Schroeder’s decision and lay out plans for galvanizing voters ahead of the fall elections. Advancement Project co-chair Penda D. Hair, Kirkland and Ellis partner Daniel T. Donovan, and North Carolina Central University School Of Law professor Irving Joyner spoke about the case and took questions from the media.
“We are disappointed that the court’s failure to issue a preliminary injunction means that countless North Carolinians could be disenfranchised in this November’s election,” said Ms. Hair via a written statement. “With the elimination of same-day registration, the shortening of the early voting period by a week, and preventing out-of-precinct provisional ballots from being counted, this harmful law burdens the constitutional right to vote, especially for voters of color who used those positive reforms at a significantly higher rate than White voters.
North Carolina NAACP president Rev. Dr. William James Barber II, who couldn’t attend Monday’s media event, offered an even more pointed written statement.
From Rev. Barber:
The NC NAACP understood when we moved for a preliminary injunction, that the bar we had to jump over was quite high. We knew we had to persuade the Court the harm this cruel law would do to African Americans and other minorities would be irreparable if it were allowed to be enforced during the 2014 November election. The Court found that allowing election officials and others to ask voters whether they had a photo ID — even though such IDs are not required for two more years — would not cause irreparable harm.
The franchise is not a partisan issue. It is a fundamental issue of our rights as guaranteed to us by the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution and by the 1868 Reconstruction Constitution here in North Carolina. It is a moral issue.
North Carolina was the first state to pass a discriminatory voting law since the Supreme Court’s Shelby Co. v. Holder decision on the Voting Rights Act, which stopped the enforcement of Section 5 last June and reduced critical protections for voters of color. This case proved that Section 4 must be fixed so that the Voting Rights Act can guarantee Southern states are covered by preclearance.”
The attorneys have not decided to appeal Judge Schroeder’s but promised to make a decision this week. NewsOne asked the attorneys what is the plan to mobilize voters going forward and how is their confidence heading in to next summer when the case goes to full trial.
“We’re very confident going in to next summer; we’re very confident going in to this November,” said Mr. Joyner. “We have a team of people that’s out on the mobilization and organizational efforts. We feel they will be successful in conveying to the public the urgency of this election. Also the fact there is a full-court press that’s designed to undermine the rights of African Americans and other race minorities to participate in the democratic process here in the state .“
Mr. Joyner continued with, “It is our feeling that is going to fuel a resentment and anger on their part such that they will show up at the polls and we’re carrying that message. And we are certainly going to let people know about this [court] opinion and that we’re going to have to fight this battle at the election booth while waiting for our chance to continue the battle in court in the summer of 2015.”
A link to Judge Schroeder’s opinion can be found here.