North Carolina faces more legal action as Republicans are dragging their feet on implementing Supreme Court-ordered changes to remedy the state's racist voter ID laws by passing the buck on to GOP-controlled county election boards.
With the Supreme Court's refusal to hear an Appeals Court case that overturned North Carolina's 2013 elections law, the struggle for voter rights has moved to the counties.
The court decision resets the state's voting laws to before the 2013 law was passed. That includes 17 days of early voting but it raises a number of other questions; the number of hours and location of early voting sites aren't spelled out, for example.
At the reported urging of the state Republican party, many county boards of elections - which are all led by Republicans - have submitted plans for early voting that mirror provisions of the 2013 law or trend in that direction.
"The state failed in its effort to restrict early voting and failed in its effort to hurt voters of color in their participation," said Allison Riggs, with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. "So we've seen counties pick up the mantle where the state failed."
"Lenoir County's plan represents a 76 percent reduction in early voting hours compared to 2012," said Riggs. "Early voting sites and predominantly African-American communities have been tossed. Weekend voting and Sunday voting have been tossed. Evening hours, tossed. It just flies in the face of what the 4th Circuit's ruling stood for, which is, you have a problem with discrimination when you try and attack voting like that. One of the reasons they wanted to get rid of Sunday voting is because black voters disproportionately used it and black people tend to vote Democratic."
So now the issue is that NC's voter ID laws aren't racist, it's that counties suddenly are unable to implement what the Supreme Court is telling them to do, gosh we're really sorry that we can't let black people vote, you guys. We can't afford it.
Of course, as one Republican consultant pointed out on Friday, that's the whole reason this is happening.
Longtime Republican consultant Carter Wrenn, a fixture in North Carolina politics, said the GOP’s voter fraud argument is nothing more than an excuse.
“Of course it’s political. Why else would you do it?” he said, explaining that Republicans, like any political party, want to protect their majority. While GOP lawmakers might have passed the law to suppress some voters, Wrenn said, that does not mean it was racist.
“Look, if African Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican, they would have kept early voting right where it was,” Wrenn said. “It wasn’t about discriminating against African Americans. They just ended up in the middle of it because they vote Democrat.”
Exeunt all, stage right.
Let's think about this for a second. Republicans would let black people vote in North Carolina if more black people just voted Republican. Republican lawmakers wouldn't target black voters in majority black voting precincts with laws that make it much harder for them to vote if they weren't the most reliable voting bloc for Democrats in America.
This is how Republicans choose to operate. That's outright extortion, codified into state law.
Let that sink in. Get angry.
Then go vote.