By Cash Michaels –
One day after Georgia Republican lawmakers passed what many critics call sweeping voter suppression legislation designed to restrain the Black vote after a disastrous November 2020 presidential election, and following January 2021 Senate runoff elections that two Democrats won, Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach, tweeted, “Voter Suppression is always a racist tactic with an economic goal. Those who attack voting rights fear poor and low-wealth Americans—Black, brown, Native, Asian and White.”
Indeed, Barber wasn’t remarking on just the political machinations of the Peach State, but 42 other states with Republican-led legislative houses, like Florida, that, under the guise of combating “voter fraud,” are reportedly considering more than 300 bills designed to retool their election laws to make it easier for Republicans to win close elections.
North Carolina has not yet joined this latest brazen GOP effort, but state civil rights leaders say it is just a matter of time before Republican legislative leaders decide to join the join the wave.
“The Grand Old Party is a desperate band of rogues who fully understand that in order to stay in power it is imperative for them to persist systematically,” says Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the NC NAACP.
“If truth be told, the North Carolina General Assembly has never let up one inch since 2011 [when Republicans took charge], so I expect some replication of Georgia’s attempt. Unfortunately, the inestimable harm their actions cause to the masses is not their concern. They are bent on pushing their brand of ‘election integrity’ and theirs alone, nothing else will do. Honest, fair, and open elections are counterproductive and a fatal blow to their policies.”
The NC NAACP Legal Redress Committee Chairman, Attorney Irving Joyner, agrees. He notes that the widespread voter suppression we’re seeing in state after state now is reminiscent of what North Carolina Republicans did in 2013, when the state was considered a petri dish for such GOP tactics.
“The struggle which faces voting rights in Georgia is eerily similar to the fight that we successfully waged on North Carolina against the monster suppression bill that the General Assembly enacted in 2013,” Joyner recalls. “Despite that victory, they continued efforts to restrict and obstruct the voting rights of African Americans and people of color and their efforts to participate in the political process. Efforts to restrict these voting rights are still continuing in North Carolina and will remain with us until these opponents and their allies are removed from office.”
And like a dripping faucet, North Carolina Republicans are slowly but surely beginning to file bills that seek to restructure the state’s election system, even though, unlike other states, the historic avalanche of voters in the November 2020 elections actually rewarded Republican candidates more than Democrats.
In recent days, GOP legislators have filed bills that would limit the number of mail-in absentee ballots; set Election Day as the deadline for receiving absentee mail-in ballots, instead of the three-days-later allowed during the pandemic last year; and restrict the state attorney general from entering any agreement or settlement without the joint approval of the House speaker or Senate president pro tempore (thus preventing any election-year court settlements involving balloting as in 2020).
In comparison, Democrats have filed at least two bills to improve and broaden voting access. One bill would establish a nonpartisan, independent redistricting commission, given that Republicans have again won the right to redraw North Carolina voting districts for the next ten years; the other would establish automatic voter registration in the state.
“The actions we’ve seen from Republicans across the country and right here in North Carolina to perpetuate baseless claims about our elections and attempt to restrict access to voting are deeply harmful to our democracy,” said NCDP Chair Bobbie Richardson. “North Carolina Democrats are committed to ensuring the people of North Carolina can make their voice heard in our elections.”
Joyner says the fight for voting rights per Black people will be never-ending.
“The full enactment of HR 1 and SR 1 in Congress will assist to resist these suppression efforts, but, unfortunately, these right-wing conservative forces will continue their efforts to deny and prevent people of color from being full and progressive forces in the North Carolina democracy,” Joyner insists. “So while passage of this federal protections will help, there will remain a regressive mindset and population in this nation which will continually seek to undermine our constitutional rights as American citizens.
“Based upon American history, the struggle by African Americans and other people of color to maintain full citizenship rights and protections in this state and country will continue throughout our lifetime. We can never forget or disregard that right-wing history and the stark reality that this struggle continues.”