By Cash Michaels –
For the third time in the past ten years the NC NAACP has filed a motion in federal court, against the State of North Carolina and its governor, seeking a preliminary injunction against a NC statute that limits access to the polls.
The motion asks the court to prohibit “… the enforcement of a North Carolina law that requires photo voter ID and vastly increases the number of authorized poll observers—Senate Bill 824—because it violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against black and Latino voters.”
The motion, filed Sept. 17, recounts that “House Bill 589 was enacted in 2013 and was struck down by the [U.S.] Fourth Circuit [Court of Appeals], which found that it intentionally discriminated against voters of color… The Court of Appeals called it ‘the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow’ and said it ‘target[ed] African Americans’ for voter suppression ‘with almost surgical precision.’”
After Republicans lost their supermajority in the NC General Assembly in November 2018, they called a special lame-duck session and hurriedly passed HB 824, establishing a voter ID law, based on passage of a constitutional amendment ratified by voters.
According to the NAACP’s motion, “The law now before the Court—SB 824—is a barely disguised duplicate of HB 589, carries the same discriminatory intent as its predecessor, and likewise fails to remedy its racially disparate impacts. It is intended, like HB 589 before it, to suppress the black and Latino vote, just as those voters were achieving near parity with white registration and turnout rates and otherwise emerging as major political forces.”
The motion notes that Republican legislative leaders resisted the Fourth Circuit ruling.
“Indeed, General Assembly leaders, including Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, and lead House sponsor David Lewis—all of whom were instrumental in enacting HB 589—never accepted the Fourth Circuit’s holding in McCrory and made clear their intention to work around it,” wrote the NAACP.
The motion also invokes the controversial mapmaking of the late Republican strategist Thomas Hofeller, who has recently gained notoriety for his work in the field of racial gerrymandering.
“In North Carolina, the General Assembly relied on Dr. Hofeller’s analysis as the basis for illegally gerrymandered House and Senate maps that a state court struck down earlier this month, “concluding that he had used racial statistics to shape his maps despite public claims to the contrary.”
The NAACP also quoted The New York Times, which wrote, “[I]t is now apparent that … more than any other state, North Carolina was shaped politically by Mr. Hofeller’s talents. A trove of files [reviewed by the paper’s reporters] shows his involvement in virtually every aspect of the State Legislature’s effort to promote and defend Republican control.” The Times also reported that “race was a constant of Mr. Hofeller’s work in the state….”
The motion also pointed out that, while the evidence is still emerging, it appears likely that Hofeller’s use of race to shape the state’s election laws so as to preserve Republican advantage also infected the General Assembly’s efforts to craft voter ID laws.
“North Carolina cannot possibly implement SB 824 in a nondiscriminatory way in the short time the State has given itself to implement the law (and has given its voters to procure identification that meets its requirements). At minimum, a preliminary injunction should issue delaying the law’s implementation until after the March 2020 elections to prevent the unlawful disparate impact that will arise out of its hasty implementation.”
The motion requested that, “pending the outcome of a trial on the merits of plaintiffs’ claims,” the court enter a preliminary injunction against the implementation of the provisions of SB 824 that impose voter-identification requirements, expand the number of poll observers, and loosen eligibility requirement for people who can challenge ballots in the March 2020 elections.
As of press time, there was no response from the State to the NC NAACP motion for preliminary injunction.