Editorials

Democracy wins as NC’s voter suppression law meets legal defeat

Voters are offered a sticker as they cast their ballots as hundreds came out on the first day of early voting at the Hope Mills Recreation Center in Hope Mills on Oct. 20, 2016.
Voters are offered a sticker as they cast their ballots as hundreds came out on the first day of early voting at the Hope Mills Recreation Center in Hope Mills on Oct. 20, 2016. cseward@newsobserver.com

In deciding not to review a ruling against North Carolina’s 2013 election law that includes a voter ID requirement and other voter-suppression tricks (eliminating same-day registration, for example), the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found in part that North Carolina’s changes in the election law “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

While Chief Justice John Roberts said the high court’s decision should not be interpreted as sending a message about “the merits of the case,” North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers clearly lost (for now), and democracy won. Credit should go to the plaintiffs and others who have fought to stop the law’s attempt at voter suppression.

Anyone who is a friend of democracy in North Carolina should be grateful for the legal effort undertaken by the plaintiffs, notably the state NAACP, which has led an uphill fight against the Republican leaders of the General Assembly. Others who played key roles are lawyers with Advancement Project and North Carolina attorneys Adam Stein and Irv Joyner, who represented the NAACP. Also deserving credit are lawyers for two groups representing other plaintiffs: The Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham and the ACLU represented the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, North Carolina Common Cause, Unifour Onestop Collaborative and several individuals.

Gov. Roy Cooper and state Attorney General Josh Stein also helped by taking steps to end a U.S. Supreme Court review of North Carolina’s voter ID law. And the state Board of Elections did the right thing by declining to take sides in the legal case.

The entire effort at voter suppression was clearly done with racial gerrymandering in mind and to put the fix in, legally, for future elections, all with the intent of solidifying Republicans’ control of the legislature and GOP dominance in North Carolina’s congressional delegation (10-3).

Republicans are clinging to Roberts’ reference to the “merits of the case” as signaling that if they go at the issue again, they can get something that will pass muster. So they’ll gear up again, wasting the public’s time and money for the singular selfish aim of giving Republicans an unfair edge in future elections.

If Republicans have the people on their side through political skill and competent governing, they don’t need to skew the election. They ought to be willing to stand or fall on their record, not engage in cowardly attempts to tilt the rules in their favor.

But that’s not how the Republicans roll, not since they got power in the 2010 election – winning with district maps drawn by Democrats, we might add. That was the final bow for “fair and square.”

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