(CC) In North Carolina, Winning souls to the polls

“This is called a voting altar call!” said William Barber, a leader in the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, which since 2013 has been challenging new legislation coming out of the Republican-controlled statehouse. Barber stood on a temporary stage in the middle of CCB Plaza in Durham, surrounded by hundreds on a Monday in late July.

Barber was focused on the one political issue that undergirds all others: the right to vote. Since last summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder gave state governments more power to shape election laws without federal oversight, legislators from Virginia to Arizona have been erecting new barriers to voting. This is part of a broader trend. Even states like Ohio and Kansas, which weren’t covered under the litigated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. have been changing election procedures, such as requiring photo IDs at voting precincts or cutting early-voting schedules. The new rules in North Carolina are among the most restrictive. The March to the Polls rally in Durham was just one of many efforts to rally blacks and other minorities to the voting booths in the face of new rules that would keep them out.

“We come to Durham, and we’re going all over this state to say to [state house Speaker Thom] Tillis, to say to [state senate president pro tem Phil] Berger, to say to [Governor Pat] McCrory, when we fight in North Carolina, this is not merely a political fight, this is the fight of history, this is the fight of our time, this is a blood fight,” said Barber, head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. “We need to make sure they cannot figure out this election because they ain’t never seen folk organized like they will see us organized in a so-called off year.”

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4 comments on “(CC) In North Carolina, Winning souls to the polls

  1. TomRightmyer says:

    The electoral sky is not falling in NC! Barber has been successful in motivating the Democrat base, but his comments on the changes in the NC election law don’t hold up. I’ve worked as an early voting and election day poll worker for the past 10 years. About half the voters who come to vote offer a driver’s license or some other picture ID without being asked. Poll workers can use them only if the name is difficult to spell. Many states require a picture ID including Illinois. There is no evidence that the requirement reduces the number of voters. Registration at early voting required additional time for the poll workers and was rarely used. The number of hours for early voting remains the same though the number of days has been reduced. The effect is to make it easier for working people to vote early. My experience is that when early voting was two weeks that almost all voters waited for the second week to vote. Very few came the first week. My judgment is that the changes on balance were an improvement. Tom Rightmyer, Asheville, NC

  2. Jeff Walton says:

    “This is called a voting altar call!” — Hmm. While I don’t come from a tradition that conducts altar calls, it would seem that such a call should be exclusively to faith in Christ. By all means, register to vote and participate in your civic duty, but I’d shy away from using altar call language for something political.

  3. Katherine says:

    As another North Carolina poll official, I agree with #1. In the primary election we were required to notify all voters of the upcoming 2016 picture ID requirement and offer them an information sheet on how to get one. We had no takers. County election officials say very few people said they didn’t already have a valid ID (which they can get for free at the DMV if they don’t have one). Black participation statewide in that primary was higher than previous similar non-presidential years. There is simply no evidence that the ID requirement will disproportionately affect blacks or discourage voting by properly registered voters.

  4. TomRightmyer says:

    My experience with early voting and on primary election day was the same as 3. Katherine’s. We explained the 2016 requirement for a government issued photo ID and offered the Election Board statement but had no takers. No one said they did not have a government issued photo ID.