New North Carolina Voting Law Takes a Shot at Democracy

North Carolina has become the first domino to fall in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

A Washington Post editorial says the state’s new voting law, made possible by GOP majorities in both houses of the state legislature and a Republican governor, “takes the war on voting rights to a new low.”

The bill, signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory last week, includes the usual staples of the GOP’s assault on voting rights – shortening the early voting period, eliminating same-day registration and mandating discriminatory and unnecessarily strict photo-ID requirements. No, House Bill 589 doesn’t stop there.

It also ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, terminates a civics program for students, stops a state-sponsored voter registration drive and makes it easier for political groups to cover up where they get their funding. There was no signing ceremony for the bill, and in a statement released afterward, McCrory called the new law “common sense.”

A lawsuit against the legislation has already been filed by the NC League of Women Voters.

“This law is a blatant attempt to make it harder for and dissuade many North Carolinians from registering and casting a ballot,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. “As we have seen in other states, drastic cuts to early voting hours will result in longer lines and have a disproportionate impact on our state’s most marginalized citizens, especially the low-income, elderly, and disabled who rely on early voting.”

The law was so appalling to Ellie Kinnaird, a nine-term NC state senator, that she resigned her seat and vowed to start a grassroots effort to help disenfranchised voters get satisfactory ID’s.

“What I want to do is try to remedy this radical agenda and work aggressively against this voter suppression,” Kinnaird told The (Raleigh, NC) News & Observer. “I feel that is a serious step over the line. I want to make sure we undo that.”

North Carolina is the first state to pass a restrictive voting law since the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the VRA in the Shelby v. Holder decision this June. Before that decision, due to the state’s history of voter suppression, all changes to voting laws were subject to approval by the federal government.

Unless it is overturned in court, North Carolina’s new voting law will take effect in time for the 2016 elections.