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Federal courts blunt voter suppression efforts in five states

Barrington M. Salmon (NNPA Newswire Contributor) | 9/18/2016, 7:26 p.m.
In the span of thirty days, federal judges have scuttled voter suppression laws in North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas and ...
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP called North Carolina’s restrictive voter law the worst in the nation since the ‘Shelby’ decision. Photo taken during a NAACP demonstration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in June 2015. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

In the span of thirty days, federal judges have scuttled voter suppression laws in North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas and North Dakota, giving voting rights advocates a few, much-needed victories for the blood and sweat wrought in their court battles and protests since the controversial United States Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder.

The day after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder, Republicans in North Carolina, led by the Speaker of the House, introduced H.B. 589, one of the most restrictive pieces of election legislation in the country, which local advocates called the “monster bill.” The measure included a strict ID requirement, a shorter early voting period; the elimination same-day registration; the prohibition of the counting of out-of-precinct provisional ballots; elimination of a pre-registration program for 16- and 17-year olds; and making challenging voters easier.

Republicans have used the boogey man of voter fraud to justify introducing tough and onerous measures, but in the years since the Shelby v. Holder decision, GOP lawmakers have revealed their true intentions: to siphon off enough Democratic votes to ensure that (GOP) retains control of the levers of power across the national political landscape.

In late July, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled against N.C. Republican lawmakers striking down the “monster” voting law in that state. The court found that North Carolina’s restrictive voting regulations “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” Gov. Pat McCrory said that he would appeal the ruling.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and one of the lead plaintiffs who sued the state of North Carolina in North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory, said he isn’t claiming victory yet, focusing instead on the damage these legislative actions have wrought.

“The court ruled on the most sweeping, retrogressive voter suppression bill that we have seen since the 19th century and since Jim Crow, and the worst in the nation since the ‘Shelby’ decision,” said Barber, during a lunch break at the Repairers of the Breach Moral Political Organizing Leadership Institute and Summit. “The [voter law] in North Carolina was intentional discrimination of the highest order. They were retrogressing racially through redistricting.”

Barber continued: “After ‘Shelby,’ we’re in a different place in that there was no protection for civil rights. Shelby took us back across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. If preclearance was in place, they wouldn’t have passed these laws. They spent between $5 million – $6 million fighting us. To have the loss of the Voting Rights Act is an affront to the country.”

Barber, the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church for the past 25 years, said there is too much racism, materialism and militarism across the country, adding that the socio-political process has been hijacked with too much of the national political discourse and activity poisoned by the dominance of regressive, immoral and hateful policy directed to communities of color, the poor, the sick, children, immigrants, voting rights, LGBTQ, the environment and religious minorities.