RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s legislature recently approved a series of laws which are the most restrictive new voting regulations yet passed in the wake of a June Supreme Court decision which dismantled much of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. While opponents have voiced strong opinions about the new legislation, calling it a racist effort to keep historically Democratic minority voters from the polls, Republicans have defended the laws, claiming that they’re not racist because they “discriminate against poor people of all colors equally.”
The laws include a number of sweeping measures that observers believe will likely lower minority turnout. These include ending same day voter registration; requiring voters to register, update their addresses, or make any other changes at least 25 days before an election; shortening the early voting period by a week; ending straight ticket voting; allowing any voter to challenge another voter’s eligibility; and requiring voters to show government-issued ID cards. The bill would also end a popular initiative to help register high school students.
The NAACP has attacked the bill, describing the legislation as “new voter suppression tactics,” as blacks, make up 22% of registered voters in North Carolina, but 34% of voters without driver’s licenses, 29% of early voters, and 34% of same day registration voters. However, Republican members of North Carolina’s legislature who supported the bill defended it vociferously from charges of racism. “There’s nothing racist about these laws,” State Senate leader Phil Berger argued. “They’re only aimed towards keeping poor people from voting; any effects against minorities are purely unintentional.” House leaders agreed. “It’s an equal opportunity bill,” North Carolina House of Representatives Speaker Thom Tillis insisted, noting that Republicans wanted to prevent “all poor people” from voting.
Governor Pat McCrory has not signed the bill yet, though he has promised to do so, despite protests from Democrats and civil rights advocates throughout the state and country. Though he hasn’t released an official statement, a spokesman noted that McCrory, unlike the legislature, admitted that the bill is both racist and anti-poor people, explaining that the “white trash voters are just as likely to vote for Democrats as are welfare queens from the ghetto.”