Protecting the Freedom to Vote in North Carolina
North Carolina’s NAACP ramps up efforts to register/educate people on the state's new voting law.
As many in our state prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, one group urges people to think twice about the freedom to vote. A freedom they believe the Republican-led North Carolina legislature is trying to suppress. “This is the worst voter suppression law ushered through by Tom Tillis that we have seen since the days of Jim Crow,” proclaims Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II. He is the president of NC NAACP and is referring to North Carolina's Voter Information Verification Act. Wednesday, he held a phone conference with reporters nationwide explaining why it’s imperative for all U.S. citizens to fight for the right to vote. “North Carolina has had one of the highest per capita increase in voting since 2008," explains Barber. "In 2012, 70 percent of African Americans turned out to the polls. Yet what we saw was a passing of a monster suppression bill.”
Barber is also the driving force behind the Forward Together Moral Movement, commonly known as “Moral Mondays.” Since last spring, the grassroots effort has attracted thousands from across the state to Raleigh, every Monday. They hold public protests demanding changes in North Carolina’s voting law, increases of unemployment benefits, the expansion of Medicaid and raising the minimum wage. Barber criticizes North Carolina’s new voting laws for making it harder for certain residents to vote, like 93-year-old Rosa Eaton. "This lady was forced to read the Preamble of the Constitution in order to pass a literacy test," says Barber. "She has registered thousands of people to vote in her lifetime and even walked with Dr. King. Under the requirements of this new voter suppression law, this lady would be disenfranchised.” But supporters of the sweeping changes of North Carolina’s voting law believe they help ensure fair elections. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, requiring states and other communities to get federal approval for changes in voting laws. Forty counties in North Carolina were under the Section 5 requirement. “When they know they can pass a law and it does not have to be pre-cleared, and it puts the burden of litigation on the people, we can see what they will do," says Barber. "This is extremism. Many of us know extremists believe the only way they can win elections is to suppress the right to vote.” Monday, July 7 in downtown Winston-Salem, attorneys for the NAACP and the Advancement Project will argue in federal court. During a preliminary injunction hearing, they will challenge North Carolina’s Voter Information Verification Act. The case is expected to last all week. “This is our Selma because this is the first of its kind," explains Barber. "If it goes unchecked, it can spread like a virus around the country.” After court, Reverend Dr. Barber will lead supporters for a Moral March to the Polls Rally. It’ll be held in Corpening Plaza on West First Street. Barber says this event will launch the group’s new efforts to register people while also educating them about the state’s new voting law. The rally begins at 5:30 p.m.