US Supreme Court Refuses to Reinstate NC Voter ID Guidelines Before November Election

The United States Supreme Court has denied a request from Governor Pat McCrory to reinstate North Carolina’s Voter ID law that was struck down earlier this summer.

The initial ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law as unconstitutional in July.

McCrory asked the US Supreme Court to issue a stay in mid-August.

Wednesday’s decision was split 4-4.

McCrory issued the following statement on the decision.

“North Carolina has been denied basic voting rights already granted to more than 30 other states to protect the integrity of one person, one vote through a common-sense voter ID law. Even without any support from our state’s attorney general, we were pleased that four justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, agreed with this right while four liberal justices blocked North Carolina protections afforded by our sensible voter laws.”

North Carolina attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper’s campaign spokesperson Ford Porter issued the following statement.

“From the start, Governor McCrory should have followed Attorney General Cooper’s advice and vetoed this law. Every legal, registered voter deserves the right to participate in the Democratic process. It’s a shame that Governor McCrory wasted taxpayer money and once again put his partisan political agenda ahead of everything else.”

Southern Coalition for Social Justice senior attorney Allison Riggs issued the following statement over the refusal to issue a stay.

“The Supreme Court acted in the best interest of North Carolina voters, allowing elections this fall to proceed absent the cloud and concern of racially discriminatory voting laws. This decision opens the door for fair and full access to the democratic process for all voters. Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians will now be able to vote without barriers. The voting booth is the one place where everyone is equal and where we all have the same say.”

American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project director Dale Ho issue the following statement.

“The Supreme Court was correct to deny North Carolina’s last-ditch effort to undermine African-American voter participation in the November election. This ruling means that thousands of voters who would have been disenfranchised will now be able to participate in the presidential election.”

North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber issued the following statement.

“Today we achieved another major victory for justice, African Americans, Latinos, and all North Carolinians. The highest Court in the land has rejected the State’s efforts to implement election provisions found by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to have been enacted with discriminatory intent. This critical rejection of the State’s position will allow the people of North Carolina to exercise the fundamental right to vote this November without expansive restrictions by racist politicians or racist policies. North Carolina voters will not be asked to show a restrictive and discriminatory Photo ID at the polls this November. Early voting will begin on October 20th and will include the option of Same-Day-Registration, allowing all eligible voters to be able to register and vote at the same time during the Early Voting period. Votes cast by eligible voters in the wrong precinct but the right county will be counted on election day in North Carolina and “pre-registration” of youth aged 16 and 17 is once again available in the state.

“The NC NAACP State conference and all of its local branches are reinforced by this ruling, as we continue our mobilization efforts to educate and assist local communities on the voting mechanisms available to them in the upcoming election. We urge the State of North Carolina and Gov. McCrory to accept -as the Supreme Court has affirmed today- that racially discriminatory laws have no place at the ballot box. Politics as usual is no longer acceptable in our State, and the legislature cannot erect barriers to plainly undermine the growing voting strength of African American and Latino voters. It is time to move forward toward a shared prosperous future for all North Carolinians and to heal the core of our democracy in this State and in this nation.”

McCrory Asks for Stay in North Carolina Voter ID Ruling

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is asking the United States Supreme Court to stay a ruling and reinstate North Carolina’s Voter ID law.

The law was struck down in a strongly worded decision from the United States Fouth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling said provisions of the Voter ID law – which also cut early voting days, eliminated preregistration for teenagers, same-day registration in early voting and out-of-precinct voting on Election Day – “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The ruling immediately struck down the law immediately, even as many plans were approved with Election Day approaching in November.

McCrory wrote in a release announcing the request to US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts:

“Today we have asked Chief Justice John Roberts to stay the Fourth Circuit’s ruling and reinstate North Carolina’s Voter ID law. This common sense law was upheld by the U.S. District Court. Our Voter ID law has been cited as a model and other states are using similar laws without challenges.

“Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold our state’s law and reverse the Fourth Circuit.”

The released added that a formal petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case would follow this request for a stay.

The Orange County Board of Elections is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss a new early voting plan.

Donald Trump, HB2, And The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations

I want to talk about the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

We’ve heard that phrase, right? Michael Gerson is the one who coined it, back in 2000 when he was a speechwriter for George W. Bush. Back then, it was an argument about race and education: we’re hurting African-American students by failing to hold them to a high standard, rewarding them for doing the bare minimum. Low expectations means students have no incentive to strive or work hard or be ambitious – so the achievement gap will never close, families will be stuck in poverty, and it’ll be on us for not having been more demanding.

That was the original argument, and it resonated well – especially with Republicans, who pride themselves on being the party of personal responsibility.

But here’s the thing, y’all:

Today, the “soft bigotry of low expectations” is still with us – only it’s not against African-Americans.

It’s against Republicans.

Today, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan met to work out an “agreement” to re-unify the GOP. Now, Donald Trump is a pathological liar, he says he wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country, he’s stirred up hatred of immigrants, he’s threatened to prosecute journalists who criticize him, and he’s actively encouraged his followers to beat up anyone who disagrees. Any one of those things ought to be enough to disqualify him from being president – if we hold our candidates up to high standards. Instead, GOP leaders are willing to let all that slide. Ryan will settle for some tiny concession, they’ll come out saying they’ve had great talks and reached an understanding, and they’ll shake hands and smile and move on. (Even as I’m writing this, Ryan and Trump just released a statement to exactly that effect.)

Meanwhile, Trump is creating a new controversy by refusing to release his tax returns. “There’s nothing to learn from them,” he says. Trump’s opponents say he’s lying about his finances, he’s not really worth ten billion dollars, he’s involved in shady dealings. But there’s no proof without the tax returns, so Trump says it must be a non-issue.

That’s how low the bar is for Donald Trump. We can’t prove he’s committed dozens of felonies; therefore he’s qualified to lead the free world. He has no respect for the Constitution, but that’s okay because he gives the GOP a slightly better chance of winning in November.

The soft bigotry of low expectations.

And it’s not just Trump. In North Carolina, we’re all about to go to court over the “bathroom” section of House Bill 2. What, exactly, are Republicans arguing? They’re arguing that federal law bans discrimination on the basis of sex, but it doesn’t overtly ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity, so a law that discriminates on that basis is technically acceptable.

Mind you, this is not the GOP’s fallback position – this is their position. Pat McCrory is making this argument loudly and proudly. “House Bill 2 is technically not directly against the law, so therefore it must be okay.” Forget whether it actually protects public safety. (McCrory hasn’t even tried to make that argument for weeks, in case you haven’t noticed.) As long as it manages to skate riiight up to the line of breaking federal law without actually technically crossing it, House Bill 2 must be perfectly fine.

The soft bigotry of low expectations.

And it’s not even just House Bill 2. This year alone, we’ve had legal fights over Congressional district lines, state legislative district lines, voter ID, teacher tenure, and judicial elections. Sooner or later, “magistrate recusal” is heading to the courts as well. And in every single one of those cases, it’s the same argument from the GOP: “Well, technically it’s not quite a violation of federal law, so therefore it must be okay.”

You know what? That’s not good enough.

It’s time we raised the bar.

Rather than letting the NCGA get away with passing bill after bill that’s arguably just slightly not quite unconstitutional, let’s demand our lawmakers pass bills that don’t create a legal crisis at all.

Rather than having to go to court and nitpick over whether our district lines constitute racial gerrymandering or just partisan gerrymandering, let’s just draw our district lines without any gerrymandering whatsoever.

Rather than making Pat McCrory go on TV and argue that “gender” discrimination technically isn’t the same thing as “sex” discrimination, let’s just have a law that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender or sex.

Rather than making teachers sue the state to secure their contractually guaranteed benefits, let’s just fulfill the frigging contract.

Rather than jumping through legal hoops to argue that we’re not technically violating the Voting Rights Act when we impose new voting restrictions, let’s just…not impose new voting restrictions.

And rather than selling your soul and supporting a presidential candidate who stirs up hatred, panders to racists, trashes the Constitution, and generally acts like an eight-year-old playground bully, let’s actually demand our candidates meet a higher standard than the lowest possible bar. Ditch Trump if you need to. Vote for Gary Johnson instead. Democrats, if your candidate doesn’t hold up to high standards either, same story. Vote Johnson. Vote Stein. Write in somebody good.

Our political leaders ought to be better than this. Our candidates ought to be better than this. We ought to be better than this.

Otherwise, we’re subjecting ourselves, our state, and our country to the soft bigotry of low expectations. And we’re going to hate ourselves for it.

To hell with that. There’s too much hate already.


Postscript: Michael Gerson, the speechwriter who originally coined the phrase “soft bigotry of low expectations,” is now a writer for the Washington Post – and he’s remained consistent. He’s been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump’s for a long time now, most recently in this column.

Vote For Polticians Who Want People to Vote

I don’t know about you, but I am always losing things.  My car keys, my phone, the TV remote.  It always feels great to find these things again.  I try to set up my house and habits so I don’t lose things again.

But, all of us have lost something precious and that’s the opportunity, and possibly the right, to vote.

Back in 2013, your North Carolina General Assembly and your governor passed a restrictive new voting law that makes it harder for some people to vote and impossible for others.  The law cut a week out of early voting, ended same-day registration, started an un-needed ID requirement, and ended a very good pre-registration program for young people.

They didn’t offer any viable reasons for doing so we’re left to assume that they’re afraid of people voting.  Some good friends and neighbors like the League of Women Voters and the NAACP felt this was unfair and took the law to court.

So, I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to lose my right or opportunity to vote.  But, I do want to make sure that our governor and those legislators who passed this law lose something, too.

Their elected seats.

Even though it will be harder to do so, I’ll be sure to vote next time for politicians who want people to vote.

— Brian Thornburg

Remember Your Voter ID! But Why?

The 2016 primary election is the first in North Carolina where you’ll be required to show a valid ID in order to vote. (You can vote without one if there’s a “reasonable impediment” preventing you from obtaining one, but you’ll have to go through some red tape if that’s the case.)

Legislators say the voter-ID provision is designed to prevent voter fraud, and there’s something to be said for having safeguards in place. But is the cure worse than the disease? There have only been a handful of cases in North Carolina where an individual has tried passing themselves off as somebody else in order to vote – only two cases this century, in fact, out of about 35 million votes cast.

And the voter ID provision will make it demonstrably more difficult for many North Carolinians to vote. How many? Perhaps as many as half a million, a disproportionate number of which are black, female, and either young or elderly. Evidence is still unclear on the specific effect of voter ID laws on turnout, but there’s growing evidence that it does have a negative effect. (This in turn tends to benefit Republican candidates, and voter ID opponents argue that that’s the whole purpose of the law in the first place.)

More information on voter ID and turnout here

….and a lot more here.

So what should North Carolina do, when it comes to voting and voting restrictions? Orange County conservative Ashley DeSena and WCHL’s Aaron Keck (a progressive) discussed the issue on the air this week. (Both are skeptical of voter ID. Keck likes Oregon’s law that automatically registers you to vote when you turn 18, without your having to do anything; DeSena goes further, wondering why ‘registration’ is even necessary in the first place.)

Listen to their conversation.

Be Prepared For Voter ID Issues at the Polls

Well here we are a week into our early voting and less than a week before our primary and I am glad to tell you I have voted.

For those of you that have not voted here is a little advice. Pack a lunch if you are going to wait until March 15 to vote. We are now required to bring a photo ID and present it to the volunteers who will be working the polls. Please make sure your address matches.

This will be a small inconvenience for you, but think of the voters standing in line. How many will be questioned behind you?

Well my addresses matched, the worker looked up from my photo ID and said “well that’s you” and placed it on her computer then asked me my last name. That’s right she had my information from my state issued driver license and still asked me who I was. I pointed to my ID that I was required to provide to vote and ask her why I have to give my name. She produced a book on the desk and informed me that it was the law the General Assembly required her to ask and she had to ask everybody their name and address even after receiving the photo ID.

I was told “Because someone could come in with a fake ID claiming to be you and use your address so you have to prove who you claimed to be.”

The book was about an inch thick and must have covered many more questions than mine. Now this did take more time because I asked several questions, but the main reason is to drag out the process and have voters standing in longer lines in fewer places and most will just give up and walk away.

Be prepared before you vote, go to the state board of election web site, check your name, address and where you vote. If they don’t match or if you have registered wrong, take proof of your address. The website will tell you what will be accepted. Have a sample ballot filled out so you will know where the candidates are located that you wish to vote for.

Don’t get mad, JUST VOTE.

— Wiley Post

John Oliver Rips North Carolina Voting Laws

North Carolina voting laws, and similar ones around the country, were the subject of scathing criticism Sunday night.

John Oliver took aim on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight.

A string of states, including North Carolina, have passed controversial voter ID laws over past few years.  Oliver specifically cited data from North Carolina, including a claim that over 300,000 voters in North Carolina do not have valid IDs.

The piece also features a clip from former Rep. Tom Murry.  Back in 2013, when he was a member of the General Assembly, Murry said the new law, “isn’t going to impact a significant amount of North Carolinians.”

Oliver replies:

“By that standard, you could also say, ‘We’re going to incinerate everyone named Warren.’  That’s not a ‘significant number of people.’  But, you are going to have a pretty justifiably upset Warren Beatty on your hands.”

Murry lost a reelection bid in 2014.  He now works as a lobbyist for the state’s court system.

John Oliver made several interesting analogies throughout the piece.

“Voter ID is a problem the way deadly knife play from crabs is a problem,” Oliver said. “I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, there are cases where it has happened, but let’s not overreact to one stabby crab.”

Watch it here. Note:  There is strong “HBO” language.

Orange County Prepares for New Voter ID Law

Voters in North Carolina will be required to show a picture ID at the polls for the upcoming primary election.

If voters do not have a photo ID, they will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot if they claim a reasonable impediment prevented them from acquiring accepted identification.

Opponents of the voter ID law were in court on Monday on grounds that it discriminates against minorities.

Tracy Reams, Director of the Orange County Board of Elections, said she and her staff have been preparing for the changing requirements.

“The main difference is really the photo ID, people being required to show that and for people who don’t have that ID can go to the DMV and get a free voter ID card,” said Reams.

There are two exceptions, those who wish to submit an absentee ballot and those who are physically unable to vote in person.

But Reams said she doesn’t believe the photo ID laws will affect voter turnout in Orange County.

“From the information I’ve gotten from the state board, there are very few in our county that have indicated that they do not have a photo ID,” said Reams.

That might have been due to the efforts of election officials in the past.

“For the last two years we have been asking voters when they come to vote, you know in 2016 you may need to show a photo ID, do you have what you need?” said Reams.

If voters responded that they did not have a proper ID, the state then sent a letter offering them assistance to obtain one.

“And what they’ve gotten back is a very low number of those saying they do not have ID,” said Reams.

In March, voters will have a chance to pick their party’s representative for President and Governor for elections in November, as well as weigh in on local races.

During the early voting period, voters can still register during the same day they cast their ballots but same-day registration is not allowed on the day of the actual primary.

Where you can cast your ballot has also changed. Last year out of precinct voting was not allowed.

“Well that has changed again,” said Reams. “So right now we are carrying forward with if you vote out of precinct the ballot will count but it will only count for those contest for which you would have been eligible to vote for, if you had voted in your correct precinct.”

The registration deadline for the March 15 primary is February 19.

Early voting will take place March 3- March 12.

Judge To Weigh Trial Schedule On NC Voting Changes

WINSTON-SALEM — A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments over whether a trial on the legality of recent Republican-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting laws should be held before or after the November 2014 elections.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Winston-Salem.

Gov. Pat McCrory faces a battery of lawsuits filed by the U.S. Justice Department, the state chapter of the NAACP and other groups who want the case heard before the election in the hopes of dismantling changes that include cutting the early voting period by a week and increasing access for partisan poll watchers. Also at issue is a new requirement for voters to present government-issued photo ID starting in 2016.

Lawyers for McCrory and GOP legislators say it will take them at least a year to prepare.

New Vote Reform Law Unpopular In NC

RALEIGH – As our state becomes the 34th state in the union to require I.D. for be able to vote, Public Policy Polling found that the new law is unpopular among voters.

According to the poll, 39 percent of North Carolinians support the voting reform bill signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory on Monday while 59 percent oppose.

Tom Jensen, director of PPP, says that voter I.D. requirements themselves are actually popular in North Carolina, but the bill became unpopular as other provisions were added, such as an end to straight ticket voting and shortening the early voting period from 17 to 10 days.

“We found that only 33 percent of voters in the state thought that it was a good idea to cut the early voting period by a week,” Jensen says. “59 percent were opposed to that.”

Tracy Reams, Orange County Board of Elections director, says that early voting is used by voters in the county in the 2012 November election.

“We had a total of 50,233 ballots that were cast during the early voting period,” Reams says.

In a January 2011 poll by PPP, Jensen says 66 percent of North Carolinians supported just the idea of requiring voters to show I.D.

“This is one of the few things that the Republicans wanted to do that really was popular,” Jensen says. “They managed to make it unpopular by adding all of this extra stuff.”

The elimination of straight-ticket voting in the voting reform bill was also unpopular with voters. Disapproval ran among both parties, with 68 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats opposing the move.

Jensen says that Republicans in the General Assembly got rid off straight-ticket voting because Democrats are more likely to use it.

“I think the Republicans think that if they get rid of that, they’ll have a better chance of winning some of those down-ballot offices like insurance commissioner, secretary of state, those kinds of things,” Jensen says.

Jensen says the move to pass a bill with added unpopular provisions is something the Republican General Assembly has been doing since Gov. McCrory’s election.

“I think it’s a situation where Republicans really felt like, ‘we have this super majority in both the House and Senate, we have a Republican governor. We can really do pretty much whatever we want without having to worry about how popular it is,’” Jensen says.

Among the other items in the new voting reform law is that voters who show up at the wrong precinct are no longer given a provisional ballot so they can vote properly even at that location.

Reams says this was also utilized in the previous election.

“For the November general election in 2012, we had 34 provisional ballots that were cast due to voting out of precinct,” Reams says.

The law also prevents precincts from extending the time that they are open on Election Day, due to long lines or other errors. Reams says no precincts in Orange County extended their hours in the 2012 election.

Senator Kay Hagan sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday asking him to review the voting reform law.