Even as Gov. Pat McCrory put pen to paper Monday, specifically the pen that signed the Voter ID bill into law, two lawsuits were on the way in federal court, a third was being readied for state court, and U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolinas 1st Congressional District was asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to use his authority to ensure voting rights in this state.
McCrory mouthed the rationalizations of Republican ideologues in the legislature who have been giving the governor his marching orders for six months.
The governor said the new law would prevent voter fraud. He didnt bother to mention that voter fraud is about as big a threat in North Carolina as an invasion of dinosaurs (excepting the Republicans on Jones Street).
And he of course didnt linger on the other parts of the legislation clearly designed to give Republicans an advantage in future elections, blatantly political maneuvers: no more straight-ticket voting, which is favored by more Democrats than Republicans; no more same-day registration and voting, again something shown to be used more by Democrats; early voting periods will be shorter, and early voting also tends to draw more Democrats; no more pre-registration for students younger than 18, as the young tend to lean Democratic.
There are some other ideological gems in the legislation as well, with an end to public financing of some judicial campaigns. Candidates who have been forced to identify themselves as standing by their ads now wont have to do that anymore. And those Big Brother fans will be happy to know that county political parties can designate more poll-watchers who can go anywhere in a county.
The changes, many of them anyway, came about because of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this summer that invalidated part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That law required certain states and counties to get prior federal approval before changing election laws. A divided court nixed that on the logic that evidence of blatant discrimination was not what once it was.
North Carolina Republicans couldnt wait to take their Voter ID law off simmer and bring it to a boil. But this action is quite likely to prompt multiple lawsuits contending that the law is designed to suppress the vote of minorities and others.
Had Republicans limited themselves to Voter ID, their actions might have caused a ripple instead of threatening to create a tidal wave. The public generally supports the idea.
Out of control
But as was the case with their flirtation with so many extremes in the just-past legislative session, they couldnt quit while they were ahead. So they went all out in an attempt to secure their hold on Jones Street and the governors mansion by doing everything they could to hold down the Democratic vote.
The shortsighted nature of that is obvious to moderate Republicans, such as they are, who recognize that their loss in the 2012 presidential election showed a weakness in their partys ability to appeal to the broader cross-section of voters that now is the reality in American politics.
Rather than lowering the boom on Democratic voters to try to limit turnout, the GOP would be smarter to expand its own base to appeal to voters beyond the affluent white male core that is diminishing in influence.
But on they charge, and now Gov. McCrory and North Carolina Republican legislators have set themselves up for legal challenges (Attorney General Roy Cooper argued against the law, but hes a Democrat, after all) that might well turn the law upside down anyway.
And even if they win, they cant change the fact that the North Carolina electorate is growing more diverse and will be even more so two and four years from now. That is something Republicans can do nothing about.