Yesterday, a New York Times editorial pointed out that the federal district judge who upheld the most egregious voting restriction law in the country was a George W. Bush appointee, a conservative Republican who accepted the state’s arguments in favor of the law. The opinion piece went on to note the Republican-led roll backs destroyed fifteen years of making voting easier.
The 2013 North Carolina law not only added the requirement that voters show acceptable photo identification at the polls; it eliminated same-day voter registration; ended preregistration for young voters who will be eighteen and eligible to vote in the next scheduled election; cut back on early voting and Sunday poll hours; and put a stop on out of precinct votes being counted.
It’s true this case is the most recent damage the Supreme Court of the United States did in Shelby v. Holder by striking down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The second act of a voting rights tragedy which started in 2008 with Indiana’s voter ID case which upheld rulings by a Federal District Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit throwing out challenges to the law.
Republicans are quite open about their motives. Voter ID laws and other restrictions create hardships for the traditional base of Democratic-leaning voters. Fewer voters seems to mean better election results for Republicans. Now we are on to the next step in the litigation chain with an appeal to the Fourth Circuit, with hopes from voting rights advocates that this decision will be overturned before November’s presidential election. None of which is a promise of anything more than more litigation. And that takes time.
Meanwhile, it’s been a struggle to find funding for the mitigation work the Voter ID Project has been doing while litigation has been fully embraced, even though proving time after time there’s an obvious double whammy needed in the remedy department. Time is not our friend with a critical presidential cycle in full swing.
There are some bright spots in doing the quiet work of getting people the information and the identification they actually need in order to vote. You’ll find Kathleen Unger’s baby at work in Wisconsin, and joining the line up is All Abut the Vote. These are two more efforts with the same goal as RuralVotes’ collaborative efforts with South Forward in North Carolina as well as introducing an innovative new program for the Voter ID Project in multiple states. There are few organizations with a specific mission that tries to help people understand and comply with the laws as they are in effect now. I can count them on one hand. We are among those who believe in grassroots change that includes practical on the ground help to get voters what they need to vote now in addition to pursuing legal remedies. It’s a new understanding of what it will take to change, and a willingness to admit we need to mitigate as well as litigate. Doing the same old thing just won’t cut it.