Thousands Attend Moral March on Raleigh

Despite freezing temperatures thousands came to downtown Raleigh Saturday morning to protest for voting rights and other causes.

The tenth annual Moral March on Raleigh and HK on J People’s Assembly was organized by the NAACP.

Handwritten signs called for healthcare for all and an end to private prisons, among dozens of others.

Tyler Swanson, an NAACP youth leader, said Raleigh was a good place to hold such a march.

“We stand in a city, we stand here on the shoulders of the great youth that came before us, to organize, to pave the way for us so that we can live in a better future,” said Swanson.

The crowd gathers before the march begins

The crowd gathers before the march begins

Advocates, like Kim Porter with NC Warn, spoke out for environmental protection.

“It’s a moral issue and an environmental justice issue when we worry about the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat,” said Porter.

The event began near Shaw University before making its way down Wilmington and Fayetteville streets to the state capitol, with marchers chanting along the way.

The main theme of the march was voting rights. The NAACP is the lead plaintiff in a recent federal case regarding North Carolina’s photo ID requirement to vote.

Even though supporters for presidential candidates were there, Rev William Barber, leader of the North Carolina NAACP, said the march did not support any specific politicians.

“You can come but you can’t have the movement, you can’t hijack the movement, whoever you are supporting that’s fine but we are supporting economic sustainability, addressing poverty and labor rights,” said Barber.

Moral March with State Capitol in background

Moral March with State Capitol in background

Critics of the movement say that their demands would cost tax payers thousands of dollars.

Organizers passed out filers encouraging people to register to vote, as well as spreading information for the upcoming primary.

“At the end of this march we are going to do a mass organizing and we need to sign up thousands of youth to join a volunteer army,” said Barber.

Marchers were enthusiastic and the energy was high but it remains to be seen if these efforts will increase voter turnout on Election Day.

NAACP Says State Not Properly Informing Voters About IDs

North Carolina’s branch of the NAACP said the state has not been adequately informing voters for the new rules for the 2016 elections.

Reverend William Barber, president of the North Carolina branch of the NAACP, said the organization is deeply concerned about the issue.

“According to the law, you can vote with or without a North Carolina driver’s license or other photo ID,” Barber said.

Voters without a photo ID will have to fill out a reasonable impediment declaration and be able to cast a provisional ballot. These voters must also provide their birth date and the last four digits of their social security number.

“That should be said up front in every ad, in every brochure,” he said. “Instead what we’re seeing is brochures where that information is on the back side five lines down. Or it may be casually mentioned in the radio ad but not mentioned up front.”

Examples of reasonable impediments given by the State Board of Elections include family obligation, disability or transportation problems.

“There is no standard for reasonable impediment as the law is written and as the state board has interpreted it to us,” said attorney Irving Joyner. “The problem is people out in the communities don’t know that. No one is telling them and the only message that is coming from the state board is that you have to have a state-sponsored voter ID.”

Joyner said this lack of information is also a problem because it affects poll workers. He said untrained poll workers may tell people who do not have an ID that they will not be able to vote.

“The director of the State Board of Elections has already acknowledged that people have not been trained,” he said. “We are roughly a month and a half away from the March 15 primary. If you’re not going to train them now, when are you going to do it?”

Although the NAACP is informing citizens about the changes to voting laws, Barber said the ultimate goal is to get rid of the voter ID laws entirely.

“We’re going to continue to fight,” he said. “We’re not going to be satisfied until the ID requirement is fully fixed and no voters are intimidated or kept from casting their ballot. We believe it, courts have already said at its face, photo ID is unconstitutional.”

NC Voter ID Court Battles Likely To Be Lengthy

Protesters rally for voter rights at Moral Monday; Photo by Rachel Nash

CHAPEL HILL – Our state became the 34th state in the nation to require voters to show a photo I.D. at the polls after Gov. Pat McCrory (Rep.) signed it into law last week. The new measure will bring sweeping changes to the state’s election process by reducing the early-voting period by a week, abolishing same-day voter registration and ending straight-party voting. The passage of the bill was immediately met with lawsuits filed in federal court questioning its constitutionality.

Mark Dorosin, managing attorney at UNC’s Center for Civil Rights and a member of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, has been following the course of this legislation since it was proposed in the General Assembly.

“A full and final resolution of the case could take several months or potentially more than a year, so I think that this issue will be tied up in litigation for quite some time,” Dorosin said.

Backers of the Voter I.D. Law, set to take effect in the 2016 election, said it will protect against voter fraud, but Dorosin said he believes fraud is not a problem in this state. He also added that the other provisions of the bill  have nothing to do with preventing voter fraud.

“There is no basis or any justification, I don’t think, for getting rid of same-day registration or early voting, other than to keep people from voting,” Dorosin said.

Several lawsuits have been filed in federal court after McCrory signed the voter I.D. bill into law on August 12. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina Foundation and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a suit on the grounds that provisions of the new law would unduly burden the right to vote and discriminates against African-American voters in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The N.C. NAACP and the Advancement Project filed a separate suit on the grounds that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting procedures that discriminate based on race or membership in one of the language minority groups. The NAACP also said the voting restrictions violate the 14th and 15th amendments.

“The thing about the North Carolina case is that it is just not about the Voter ID Law, but in the case filed by the NAACP, challenges the range of voter suppression components of the new election law,” Dorosin said.

Groups in North Carolina aren’t the first to challenge Voter I.D. related legislation. In Pennsylvania, voter I.D. legislation has been in legal limbo since Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed the bill into law in March of 2012.

Dorosin said he believes court battles concerning the N.C. Voter I.D. will be more challenging than other cases in other states because the provisions of the bill are broader.