Regarding the April 26 news article “Federal judge who backed limits on early ballots upholds voter ID requirement”: Before HB 589 was signed into law, North Carolina had one of the strongest rates of voter participation in the nation. The regressive law rolled back the early voting period, eliminated same-day registration and imposed restrictive photo ID requirements. While we are disappointed the U.S. District Court upheld HB 589, we are hopeful the courts and the American people will ultimately see these laws for what they truly are – a cynical political ploy to make it harder for women, people of color, students, the elderly and working families to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
When regressive state legislatures like the one in North Carolina limit the ability of people to vote, we are hurting the low-wage workers with two jobs, the single mother who goes to work early each morning and picks up her children late at night, and the elderly widower without a car who relies on his adult children to get to the polls. This purely partisan law was passed without any support from Democrats because its intent was clear from the very beginning – to systematically limit access to the polls in order to sway elections.
Tellingly, the N.C. General Assembly waited until the U.S. Supreme Court had eliminated the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act before advancing these discriminatory voter-suppression measures. At the time this bill was passed, the N.C. State Board of Elections identified only two instances of potential voter impersonation in a 14-year period. Sen. Thom Tillis, then-North Carolina House speaker, even acknowledged in an interview that fighting so-called voter fraud was not the primary reason for passing the bill.
Sadly, several other states have joined North Carolina in limiting an individual’s ability to vote. In April, students at a Marquette University polling station in Wisconsin faced two-hour wait times just to cast a ballot. After the polls officially closed, a Wisconsin Republican congressman bragged to a TV reporter that the state’s restrictive photo ID law would help the GOP defeat Democrats in the fall. In Texas, senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz recently filed an amicus brief in support of the state’s restrictive photo ID law. He also led the fight as Texas solicitor general to suppress the vote in communities of color by vigorously defending a discriminatory law against a civil rights lawsuit.
While Democrats have gone to court in Arizona to reverse this culture of discrimination and disenfranchisement, Republicans are going to court to defend laws designed to decrease voter turnout because they believe that when fewer people vote, they have a better chance of winning. Make no mistake: This is part of a consistent and concerted effort by Republicans to silence voters who do not agree with their agenda. We expect that these laws, like the one passed in North Carolina, will ultimately be declared unconstitutional, and we will continue the fight at the congressional level to restore the critical protections of the Voting Rights Act.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield
Democrat, 1st District
U.S. Rep. David Price
Democrat, 4th District
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue. U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, Democrat, 12th District, also signed the letter.