A day before voters in Pennsylvania and four other states prepared to vote in primaries last Tuesday, a federal district judge in North Carolina upheld one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country.
On April 25, Judge Thomas Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, accepted North Carolina’s Republican-controlled state legislature measures to roll back voting rights.
North Carolina is one of several states in the nation where Republican-controlled state legislatures made changes in election laws that placed obstacles in the way of voters who are traditional Democratic voters.
The Republican-controlled legislature in Pennsylvania passed restive voter ID laws but in January 2014, a state judge struck down the 2012 law requiring voters to produce a state-approved photo ID at the polls.
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley ruled that the law “hampered the ability of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to cast their ballots, with the burden falling most heavily on elderly, disabled and low-income residents, and that the state’s reason for the law — that it was needed to combat voter fraud — was not supported by the facts,” reported the New York Times.
“Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election,” the judge wrote in his decision. “The voter ID law does not further this goal.”
In North Carolina and in states across the country, Republicans argue that the new voter ID laws are needed to combat voter fraud. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
In a moment of candor, Republican Party officials themselves have acknowledged that the real aim of the election law changes is to put more obstacles in the way of voters who aren’t traditional Republican voters.
In July 2013, Pennsylvania GOP party chairman Rob Gleason said, when asked about the impact of the new voter ID law, “we cut Obama by 5 percent, which was big. He beat McCain by 10 percent; he only beat Romney by 5 percent. I think that probably voter ID had helped a bit in that.”
In the year before, Pennsylvania Republican House leader Mike Turzai made the infamous boast that the new voter ID would “allow Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania.”
In North Carolina, a Republican precinct chair, Don Yelton, when asked about the voter ID law in a 2013 interview on the “Daily Show,” said, “The law is going to kick Democrats in the butt.”
Republican officials say they are changing election laws to prevent fraud when evidence and their own remarks show that’s real aim is to suppress the vote of those who aren’t traditional Republican voters.
Voting rights advocates must challenge these new election laws in the courts while redoubling efforts at voter education, registration and mobilization.
These new laws must be exposed for what they are — attempts to suppress voting.