Durham, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law on Aug. 12 a sweeping anti-voting rights bill that attacks the basic democratic rights of people of color, youth and other members of the working class.
As voter ID bills sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) make their way through many state legislatures, the recently signed bill in N.C. has earned the distinction as the most severe voter suppression law yet passed in the U.S.
Among the bill’s key provisions are a shortened early voting period, and elimination of Sunday voting and same-day registration. In a blow to young voters, it does away with preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds and invalidates school IDs as a valid form of identification. The law abolishes public financing of elections and increases the amount that individuals and corporations can contribute to elections. Additionally, it empowers vigilante poll observers to challenge other voters’ eligibility. There are other reactionary provisions as well.
Many of the provisions of the bill attack measures, such as Sunday voting, same-day registration and the early voting period, which have been utilized overwhelmingly by Black, low-income and elderly voters.
This right-wing legislation comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby decision, which gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark bill passed in 1965 as a result of the Civil Rights struggle. Following that decision, Conservative state Sen. Tom Apodaca stated how relieved he was to no longer have the “headache” of the Voting Rights Act to deal with, reported a N.C. NAACP press release in the June 27 Carolina Mercury.
At an Aug. 13 press conference covered by WRAL-TV, announcing a legal challenge to the bill, the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of the N.C. NAACP, called it “a vulgar misuse of political power designed to manipulate and rig elections. McCrory and the North Carolina Legislature are on the wrong side of history. … This anti-voting rights bill tramples on the blood of our martyrs, desecrates the graves of freedom fighters and in the 21st century lines up with the extreme racially driven philosophy of interposition and nullification, promoted by past political figures like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond,” emphasized Barber.
“Our rights are being taken away from us, and we should not stand idle,” said Rosanell Johnson Eaton at the press conference. Eaton, 92, a long-time Civil Rights activist and resident of Franklin County, is the main plaintiff in the NAACP and Advancement Project’s lawsuit challenging the N.C. voter suppression bill.
Barber explained further attacks in the state: “After denying Medicaid to 500,000 North Carolinians, unemployment [compensation] to 170,000 North Carolinians, earned income tax credits to 900,000 Black, white, and Latino North Carolinians, changing the tax code of North Carolina to favor the wealthy, attacking public education, attacking public school teachers, attacking women’s rights, attacking labor rights … now this group of extremists wants to manipulate and cheat their way into and hold on to political power. … It seems as though … this legislature and the governor view the Supreme Court Shelby decision in the same way the radical racists in the South in the 1800s viewed the removal of the federal troops in 1877.”
Moral Mondays ignite fightback across North Carolina
The end of the legislative session in late July has not slowed the efforts to expand and deepen the Moral Monday and Forward Together movement that has spearheaded the opposition to the right-wing Legislature and its anti-people agenda. On the contrary, Moral Mondays have spread across the state — from the mountains to the coast and all points in between.
More than 10,000 people attended a Moral Monday demonstration on Aug. 5 in Asheville, N.C., in the western region of the state. Moral Monday protests will also take place in Charlotte; Manteo, a coastal city; and in Burnsville, a small mountain town, on Aug. 19.
The N.C. NAACP and the Forward Together movement will mark the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington on Aug. 28 with 13 simultaneous demonstrations across the state, organized under the banner of “Taking the Dream Home.”
These developments are breathing life into a new period of struggle in North Carolina. The Moral Monday and Forward Together movement, which began with just a few dozen people at the end of April, has grown by thousands and shows no signs of slowing the struggle anytime soon.
The ongoing efforts to bring the fightback that was opened up in Raleigh, the state capital, back to communities across the state is a very important next step for the movement. These efforts are being met with enthusiasm in every part of North Carolina.
Continuing to build and spread the spirit of resistance throughout the state will be a crucial element in rolling back these attacks on basic democratic rights and other anti-people policies promoted by the right-wing Legislature and governor. Ultimately, this fightback will help chart out a path to turn back the tide on the right-wing takeover here and elsewhere across the country.