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Vote Suppression to Faciliate Further Attacks on the Poor and Women

[ 103 ] July 24, 2013 |

North Carolina pushes the envelope:

Once a temperate and tolerant beacon of the South, the state is poised to enact a rash of inexpressibly awful legislation, rushed through a Republican legislature. Because the GOP has veto-proof super-majorities in the state House and Senate, and a Republican governor for the first time since Reconstruction, the party has been on a spree. Republican-controlled redistricting was fantastically effective. So much so that in the 2012 elections, nearly 51 percent of North Carolina voters picked a Democrat for the U.S. House, yet Republicans won nine of the state’s 13 House seats, as Chris Kromm and Sue Sturgis recently pointed out.

Some of the gems advanced recently in the legislature include an abortion bill tacked first onto an anti-Sharia law and then snuck in through a motorcycle safety law (new TRAP regulations may shutter all but one clinic in the state). Another bill forces all educators to teach seventh graders that abortion causes preterm birth (it doesn’t). Lawmakers also enacted legislation (described here and elsewhere as “the harshest unemployment insurance program cuts in our nation’s history”) that resulted in 70,000 North Carolina citizens losing their unemployment benefits. The state is one of the 15 to have refused Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. A proposed education bill would slash teacher compensation, (already ranked among the lowest in the nation), eliminate tenure, and use vouchers to reallocate $90 million of public-school funding to private schools (The school superintendent issued a statement this week saying that in light of the proposed deep cuts to the education budget “For the first time in my career of more than 30 years in public education, I am truly worried about students in our care.”) Don’t forget the embarrassing proposed resolution allowing counties and cities to enshrine a state religion. Or the proposed ban on nipples.


How does the state legislature control an electorate that by all accounts really hates the state’s new legislative initiatives? Simple. Drown them out—by diluting minority/Democratic votes through redistricting, or suppressing the vote.

Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 40 counties in North Carolina had to go to the federal government for pre-approval of any change to local election law. When the Supreme Court locked up Section 5 last month, by a vote of 5–4, it gave a great gift to the disenfranchisement community. States no longer need to check their crazy with federal courts or the Justice Department. The obligation to prove that you aren’t harming minority voters (or expressly targeting them) has gone. Texas and Mississippi charged ahead with their own controversial voter ID laws within hours of the Supreme Court ruling. Alabama and Mississippi have either passed or are working on similar ones. And Tuesday, North Carolina took the first step to expanding its Voter ID bill to better disenfranchise a few more voters who might have leaned left, including students, African-Americans, and women.

Indeed, North Carolina has just put in place a vote suppression regime that can only really be described as political performance art. Here is the proposed new elections omnibus bill. It drastically reduces early voting, does away with same-day voter registration, weakens the disclosure of so-called independent expenditures, disenfranchises felons and the “mentally incompetent,” authorizes vigilante poll observers, and penalizes families of college students who vote out of state.

As George Lovell said in our recent podcast, William Rehnquist during his confirmation hearings at least felt compelled to lie about his past days as a vote suppression goon. Today, he’d wear it proudly.


Comments (103)

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  1. Another Anonymous says:

    Weigel had the best line I saw: the bill “ends ‘Citizens Awareness Month,’ an annual occurence during which the State Board of Elections runs a voter registration drive. Did the state prove some sort of run of fraudulent activity during those months? Oh, no, but they’re gone anyway.”

    This sort of thing is precisely what Shelby County v. Holder was designed to help happen. There’s nothing “wrong with North Carolina” that wasn’t *already* wrong with North Carolina; it’s just that it’s off its preclearance meds.

  2. Joshua says:

    Heighten the contradictions, indeed. It’ll be interesting to see how North Carolinians respond to these lunatics in the next election. Provided anybody to the left of Erik Erikson is allowed to vote, of course.

    • Scott S. says:

      Hell, I’m worried they’ll have it rigged so a pretty large percentage of the people in the state won’t be allowed to vote at all, and of those who do, the non-wingnut votes will be split so drastically among wingnut-safe districts that they’ll essentially have no say at all.

      If 51% voted Democratic and they still wound up with Republicans winning three-quarters of the House seats, how bad is it going to be once they really get busy redistricting everyone?

  3. Major Kong says:

    Tennessee is going to have to step up their game.

  4. BL1Y says:

    Whenever the right wing talks about voter fraud, they’re met with the criticism that the number of cases of voter fraud is extraordinarily low, too low to ever matter.

    Can we get the same sort of analysis in regards to voter suppression? How many people would vote but cannot do to voter suppressing laws?

    • BL1Y says:

      Pretend I wrote “due.”

      • BL1Y says:

        That’s an interesting study, but it doesn’t answer the question of how many people would vote but don’t because they couldn’t obtain a voter ID.

        “Nearly 500,000 eligible voters do not have access to a vehicle and live more than 10 miles from the nearest state ID-issuing office open more than two days a week.”

        Putting aside the lack of a definition for not having access to a vehicle, the study does not tell us what percentage of those 500,000 people don’t already have a valid state ID. It also doesn’t look at how many are eligible to vote without a state ID (typically not required for absentee ballots). And lastly, it doesn’t look at how many people would vote but for not having the ID.

        If half those people already have an ID, and half of those without ID wouldn’t vote anyways, and 10% who don’t have ID and want to vote can get an absentee ballot, you’re looking at 112,500 “suppressed” votes. That’s a lot of votes, and certainly more than the number of cases of in-person voter fraud, but spread those 112.5k over the 10 most suppressive states and you affect the outcomes of roughly 0 elections.

        That’s not a defense of any voter suppression tactics. My point is that Republicans aren’t trying to use these tricks to steal elections; they’re using them to convince their supporters that Democrats are going to cheat by casting phony ballots, and that accusation will increase their own turnout and donations. Likewise, Democrats accuse Republicans of cheating to fire up their base, and increase turnout and donations.

        • efgoldman says:

          My point is that Republicans aren’t trying to use these tricks to steal elections;

          I call bullshit!
          Hell, they said as much in their own words.

          “Yeah, I think a little bit. We probably had a better election. Think about this, we cut Obama by five percent, which was big. A lot of people lost sight of that. He won, he beat McCain by 10 percent, he only beat Romney by five percent. I think that probably voter ID helped a bit in that.”

          • BL1Y says:

            That still doesn’t show that voter suppression has any chance of affecting an election, just that some GOP members want to say it does.

            • JMP says:

              Sideshow Bob: Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel prize for attempted chemistry? Do they?

            • PROVE MY NEGATIVE, BITCH! says:

              Oh, good, a concern troll on voter suppression. Why do we have the hard job of showing that when the various wingtard anti-Democrat non-solutions to non-problems are put in place, people who would otherwise have voted are missing? Proving a negative is very hard work.

              The easy job would be for all of the voter-suppression people to show that they’re actually preventing all of the fraud that they say exists, and every time that someone actually tries to show fraud (AND WHAT THE FUCK DOES SUNDAY VOTING HAVE TO DO WITH FRAUD, EXACTLY?) they find that it’s an order of magnitude more rare than being struck by lightning?

              But instead we get the PROVE MY NEGATIVE, BITCH! concern troll.

            • sharculese says:

              If voter suppression failed to change the outcome of a single elections, would that make the mass disenfranchisement more acceptable?

              • PBF says:

                Mass disenfranchisement is the rational response to that one instance of confirmed voter fraud somewhere during that one election.

                Ironically, BLY1 mentioned absentee ballots
                which may be the best counter measure to disfranchisement post-Shelby.

                • daveNYC says:

                  And Republican initiated budget cuts are the best way to make sure that not enough of them are available.

            • aimai says:

              There are more kinds of elections than just national elections. Suppressing 100 votes in a local election can be huge.

        • JMP says:

          Um, you may not have heard of this, but there was once an election in Florida that, following numerous voter suppression tactics, ballot counting problems and post-election schenanigans to interfere with the recount, was officially decided by a margin of 537 votes, and that had an enormous effect on the world’s future, so hell yeah it can make a difference.

          And really, “both sides do it” arguments are always BS.

          • BlueLoom says:

            was officially decided by a margin of 537 votes,

            Maybe “officially,” but it was really decided by one vote: 5-4.

          • BL1Y says:

            Florida aside, voter suppression efforts (at least the recent attempts) are not an effective strategy for winning an election. They are however good at helping your narrative about how Democrats are going to ruin things for Real Americans. That narrative likely gets out far more votes than voter suppression keeps home.

            And the “both sides do it” argument is BS when it’s used as a justification. I wasn’t using it that way. I was saying both sides do it to point to how effective a strategy it is.

            • aimai says:

              Both sides don’t do it. Because only one side is helped by generically suppressing the vote, the other side is helped by getting more people to vote.

              • BL1Y says:

                The “it” is creating a boogey man opponent to fire up the base. In this case, both sides are claiming the other side is cheating to win elections.

                GOP claims fraudulent votes (by brown skinned socialist illegals), which are too rare to affect the outcome of an election.

                Dems claim voter suppression, which while real, probably doesn’t suppression enough votes to be an effective strategy.

                Both are issues which are more about hyping the base than the underlying policy debate.

                • commie atheist says:

                  Bullshit. The proof is in the pudding, as in all the states that rushed to get voter suppression laws enacted as soon as SCOTUS disabled the VRA. They knew exactly what they were doing, and that their policies would achieve their intended results.

                  My friend, voter suppression is a real, historical fact; it occurred throughout the states of the former confederacy, where millions of black voters were disenfranchised, through intimidation, poll taxes, literacy tests, and outright murder (see Cheney, Goodman and Schwermer). Vote suppression is not some just-so story told by Democrats to rile up their base. It is a real, provable fact.

                  Modern-day Republicans can’t be quite as blatant as their southern Democratic predecessors, but they can shave off enough minority and youth votes to make a difference, especially in local elections. Do some research before you spot this kind of nonsense.

                • BL1Y says:

                  I’ll refer you to my initial question then:

                  How many votes are being suppressed by these measures? How many people would vote but for the new laws?

                • witless chum says:

                  How many does it have to be for you take it seriously? Florida in 2000 isn’t the only close election to ever happen, you know.

                • BL1Y says:

                  I do take them seriously, but I do so because I think they are at odds with the fundamental values of a liberal democracy, not because I think voter suppression is a serious strategy for affecting the outcome of elections.

                  When the right talks about voter fraud, the left correctly points out the tiny number of incidents voter ID laws would prevent. Why is the standard not the same for discussing voter suppression? Why is there not some burden to show the number of votes that would be suppressed by a particular measure?

            • JMP says:

              “Florida aside”

              Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

    • David Hunt says:

      Can we get the same sort of analysis in regards to voter suppression? How many people would vote but cannot do to voter suppressing laws?

      There’s often numbers (eventually) release estimating the number of people disenfranchised by these matters. The suppressors never officially listen and I suspect that they read/play the estimates in private and chortle. This is a circumstance where you can unironically state that it’s a feature, not a bug.

  5. anthrofred says:

    An abortion bill tacked on to an “anti-Sharia law”? They’re just daisy-chaining the crazy at this point.

    • JMP says:

      Along with the irony. Really, attaching a bill designed to force women to conform to the rules of a right-wing version of Christianity to one against the imaginary threat of laws based on Islamic doctrine? North Carolina is commanding Sharia law at the same time it’s forbidding it.

      • Origami Isopod says:

        Yeah, but when it’s their deity it’s OK. See also: Lying for Jesus.

        • UserGoogol says:

          Well I’d phrase it slightly less condescendingly than that. Part of it is of course “Christianity is right and Islam is wrong so there,” but a big part of it is the idea that “America is based on Christian values,” so of course there’s nothing wrong with reaffirming those values, while Sharia is a firmly anti-American legal system. (Which is why Sharia sometimes gets thrown around in the same breath as secularist UN conspiracies despite the obvious tension there.)

    • Bill Murray says:

      Can’t this be used against them? Doesn’t sharia law limit or end abortion, so that any anti-abortion laws are enacting parts of sharia law and are therefore not allowed?

      • I forget who said it or how it’s phrased, but there’s a good line of analysis from somewhere to the effect of “the most dangerous thing a dissident can do is take the law seriously”.

      • UserGoogol says:

        That’s a stupid misrepresentation of an already stupid idea. Sharia prohibits murder too, after all.

        The idea is that using Sharia as a source of law (even in seemingly benign ways) will lead to a slippery slope until the evil activist judges take advantage of the precedent to declare Christianity illegal or whatever. The point isn’t necessarily that the legal conclusions of Sharia are all bad, but that once you corrupt the sacred Judeo-Christian Common Law traditions on which our legal system is based on, things will fall apart until we’re all slaves of the UN.

  6. JMP says:

    Even a year ago, the right was trying to pretend there was some legitimate pretext to their voter suppression efforts, like inventing the threat of voter fraud to justify the ID requirements that just happened to overly burden poor minorities. Now though they’re not even pretending.

    Can anyone even think of a legitimate-sounding reason to punish college students for voting? It’s solely because college students tend to be liberal, and hey, since they’re already trying to eviscerate the 15th and 24th Amendments, why not shred the 26th too while they’re at it?

    • sharculese says:

      Legitimate sounding? Usually the excuse is that college students don’t really count as residents because they’re only there temporarily, and should be forced to cast ballots where their parents live.

      Oh, you wanted something that wasn’t profoundly anti-democratic? Sorry, fresh out.

      • JMP says:

        And it doesn’t make any sense at all. When you live somewhere for about nine months of the year, barring a few weeks around Christmas and in early spring, that’s not really temporary. Especially considering that the Supreme Court already found denying students the right to vote where they go to schools unconstitutional.

        But I’m sure Roberts and Alito are hoping to get the chance to change that.

        • Johnny Sack says:

          Meh, I never really had a problem with it as a college student. I could understand especially where you have a huge school in a relatively small city (like Ithaca, or Raleigh) where you actually have town/gown issues. It becomes less valid in a huge place, like New York City.

          Mostly I never had the inclination to vote in Ithaca. I found my one vote to be much more important in my home state of Florida. Especially voting against idiotic local initiatives in Miami. That was back in the days of Mayor Pinga-ellas, though I still think I’d contribute to vote in Florida if I were an out of state college student today.

          • JMP says:

            Maybe it was OK for Florida, but at least when I was in school in Chicago, Pennsylvania where I was from made getting an absentee ballot a huge pain in the ass. Voting where I actually was was, simply, a hell of a lot easier. Not to mention that, spending more time in Chicago, I simply knew a lot more about the local candidates in Chicago at the time.

      • anthrofred says:

        The towns vs. gowns tension surrounding voting makes sense up to a point, but it’s an issue of local politics rather than state politics. I’m even somewhat sympathetic in the case of college towns where the majority of students live in dorms and rarely come in to the city, but voter education seems a better solution than putting up obstacles to voting.

        And of course there’s a difference between being concerned about local ballot initiatives and concern-trolling because you want to make sure your gerrymandering goes smoothly.

        • witless chum says:

          Trying to disenfranchise students in Michigan is part and parcel of general gerrymandering efforts. They created piece of shit Mike Rogers a district that stretches from Lansing to the far Detroit suburbs to find enough wingnuts to cancel out Lansing and the MSU students. The district went from a close district held by Debbie Stabenow to something Rogers could hold onto for 12 years.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      “Can anyone even think of a legitimate-sounding reason to punish college students for voting?”

      I’m guessing ‘They’s all frum away!’ isn’t going to cut it.

    • Just a Rube says:

      As someone in NC, I can say that the official reason is that College students don’t have deep ties to the community, so they should vote back at “home” with their parents (technically the bill “merely” prevents parents from claiming child tax credits for children registered to vote at their college address).

      The actual reason, of course, is that fewer college students will vote if they have to either go back to their parents’ place in the middle of the semester or vote absentee, but you knew that already.

      • Mark Jamison says:

        It also has to do with some of the local issues in Wake County. Lots of college students in the area that could impinge upon Art Pope’s attempts to buy the local school board. There’s also Asheville with several colleges that could make a difference in the gerrymandered redistricting. Then there’s Jackson County where WCU students could have an impact on Jim Davis’ state senate seat. Probably a few other places where college populations affect local Republican ambitions.

    • Emily says:

      Aren’t college students counted in the census at their college address? So if they have to vote back at their parents’ home, the townies essentially get a bigger say in who is sent to Congress.

  7. Shakezula says:

    No control whatsoever. This isn’t the slow unfolding of some cunning plan, this is the kind of fucking free for all you get when maniacs think they are INVINCUBUL.

    • BigHank53 says:

      What’s really kind of bewildering is that they didn’t wait for for more of the original civil rights organizers to croak before pulling this shit. There’s still plenty of people who know how to fight this: register a shit-ton of people to vote, make sure they have the damn IDs, and get then them to the polls. Make sure everyone has a fresh charge on their phone battery so they can record the dipshit challenging every single grandmother in line. (Though I have no doubt that NC will try to ban recording devices in polling locations.) Repeat over and over and over.

    • JMP says:

      The GOP-controlled legislatures are really going nuts now; besides the vote suppression, before they were attacking the right to choose with death by a thousand cuts, piling on more and more restrictions on getting an abortion but just a little bit at a time, and always aimed at things they could plausibly get the mushy “abortion should be legal but is icky” types to support.

      Now though, they’re just going crazy with it, trying to ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy in some states, mandating women get a metal rod stuck up her uterus, and not even including the exemptions for rape and health that previously all but the most strident anti-choicers at least claimed to support.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Keep the White House, losers. With control of the States and gerrymandering plus the voter integrity laws (especially now that the VRA is dead) we will control the House for the next few decades and be enable to enact whatever we wish at the State level. And thanks to a GOP House (and Senate after 2014) you won’t be able to do jack fucking shit at the federal level.

    The GOP, ALEC, and the Koch Brothers: masters of all they survey!

  9. efgoldman says:

    Hey blogmasters! What’s happened to the nested replies?

  10. jim, some guy in iowa says:

    I fricken love it when trolls talk about “we” when referring to their owners. That is, as they say, “comedy gold”

  11. James E. Powell says:

    Are there any non-profits running ads about these “stop the vote” measures?

    I realize that many people will make the cognitive adjustment and assume that these restrictions will only apply to [insert racist epithet] and other people that they do not like, but there are a significant number of people who will respond to a message that says quite plainly “Republicans are making it harder for people to vote” and “Republicans do not want people to vote.”

    It would be worth it; it would be a good thing. They ought to be running them right now.

  12. cpinva says:

    I kind of get the impression that the NC GOP sees this as their short-term opportunity, to get every addled law passed they can think of, before they get booted out of office, en masse, come the next election. if they were really convinced they were going to be in control, for the foreseeable future, they wouldn’t be piling on the crazy, all at one time. doing so guarantees a pissed off voter population (except for their barking mad base), which pretty much guarantees their ultimate electoral destruction, gerrymandering notwithstanding.

    I could be wrong.

    • daveNYC says:

      I think you might be wrong. Back when the Wisconson fiasco started, I thought the same. That the Republicans were overreaching and were going to get stomped hard for it. Since then, I’ve changed my mind. They’re going all out in states where they have control, but I don’t think they’re going to pay a serious price for it. Some of them will lose, and they’ll probably not have control of both the executive and legislative branches, but I don’t see what they’re doing as some sort of electoral suicide run. Now that the VRA has been gutted, the Republicans are in an even better position. Sure the demographics are working against them, but if they can hold on to power in 2020, they’ll be able to do a second round of redistricting. Eventually the demographics will be so skewed against them that even gerrymandering and hard core voter supression won’t get the job done, but how many years away is that, and what hellhole will they have made the country into by then?

      Remember, these guys just want to make things burn. They can do that by lighting fires (like in NC) or by just obstructing the fire department (like at the federal level).

      • Tyro says:

        The other problem is that these policies become ossified into the legal system, and it is not like an election that puts the Democrats into power results in having them repealed and going back to where we were. Permanent damage is being done, and the Republicans are creating “the new normal” in these states.

        • daveNYC says:

          The union stuff especially. You bust the public unions and who knows how long it will take to get them back. Ditto on edumacation. Fire 4000 teachers and even if you restore all the cuts to hire them back next year, those people, and the knowledge and skills they represent, won’t all be around for rehiring.

  13. wengler says:

    These ‘crazy state Republicans’ stories are just tryouts by the governors for their corporate masters(and their crazy Tea Party minions) to endorse them for President. Hence the attempt to out-crazy one another.

  14. Mark Jamison says:

    Well our state constitution does have a provision requiring office holders to have a belief in god. Let’s not forget the bill to declare North Carolina a Christian state regardless of the First Amendment. Or the bill to create a state currency so we’ll be safe when the Fed turns us into Weimer. Or the takeover of the Asheville water system. Or the attacks on public education and provisions to extend charters and home schooling. There’s all kinds of crazy here in North Carolina. After all we were the home of the Church of the World Creator and The State of Franklin. We’re also home to Art Pope, a slightly cheaper version of the Koch brothers. His funding of the John Locke Society and Civitas give Heritage and Cato a rub for the money on creation of self serving studies.
    Doesn’t help they the state Democratic Party is in total shambles.
    Still all hope isn’t lost as Moral Mondays shows.

    • cpinva says:

      i’m guessing their next move is to outlaw all political parties, except the GOP. heck, since they’ve already passed multiple unconstitutional laws, there’s no reason to hold back now.

  15. Cody says:

    Where can I donate to the “Get out of NC” fund?

    Maybe it’s time to let them have the state, try to make sure the EPA stops them from destroying the world, and come to a nice liberalish state where your life won’t be hell.

    It seems with their current strategy NC is probably going to tank pretty hard soon. Although in general the Republican strategy (c.f. George W. Bush) is to destroy the ability of America to do stuff then blame the successor for not fixing it.

  16. Burnspbesq says:

    These rules will never go into effect. You know it. I know it. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act knows it. So can the Chicken Little nonsense.

    That said, voting rights need to be the signature issue of the 2014 elections. This needs to be a vote that every legislator who voted “yes” comes to regret. Make them pay with their seets. Convert the energy being wasted on whingeing to energy spent productively organizing and getting out the vote.

    • daveNYC says:

      What rules, the one that prevents college IDs from being used? Or the slicing and dicing of early voting? None of those seem to be particularly against the VRA.

      I have no idea why you keep having such faith that the judiciary is going to keep things from getting worse. There have been more than enough 5-4 decisions to kill that idea dead.

  17. AF says:

    As the excerpted portion of the article mentions, a number of North Carolina counties were covered under Section 5. Presumably therefore the DOJ would have had to approve the redistricting plan – which means that Shelby really can’t be blamed for the results of that redistricting.

    In 2012 the Republicans apparently gained one seat in the legislature; the GOP candidate for governor won with 54% of the popular vote.

    The crazy bills being proposed in the NC legislature seem to have much more to do with what small local elections are capable of producing than with the VRA or vote suppression.

  18. […] we are having this debate, can we please all point to North Carolina as what will happen the next time Republicans control the …? Because it is absolutely what will […]

  19. Lex says:

    Back in the early ’80s, I used to wish that the Republicans would stop being disingenuous and just admit that they wanted to repeal the New Deal and the Civil Rights Act.

    Be careful what you wish for.

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