Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Critics say N.C. GOP circumventing court ruling that said party's law aimed to suppress black votes

UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.: The U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay the effect of the appeals court's decision, meaning that it will remain in effect for this year's election.

When Republicans took control of North Carolina's government in 2013, they passed an election law that critics said would lead to the suppression of black votes. Last month a federal appeals court overturned much of the law, "saying it had been deliberately intended to discourage African-Americans from voting." Now the state's election boards, which the law made majority Republican, are being accused of "staging an end run" around the ruling, which "they are supposed to carry out," Michael Wines reports for The New York Times. "Like the law that was struck down, say voting-rights advocacy groups and some Democrats who are contesting the rewritten election plans, many election plans have been intentionally written to suppress the black vote."

LENOIR COUNTY (University of North Carolina map)
A good example is in rural Lenoir County, population 58,914, where "Democrats outnumber Republicans by better than two to one, and four in 10 voters are black," Wines writes. The two Republicans on the county board of elections have proposed allowing "106.5 hours of early voting before the Nov. 8 election—less than a quarter of the time allowed in the 2012 presidential election—and to limit early balloting to a single polling place in the county seat of a largely rural eastern North Carolina county that sprawls over 403 square miles. The election plan limits voting to a single weekend day, and on weekdays demands that residents, including those who are poor and do not own cars, make long trips to cast a ballot."

"The roots of North Carolina’s latest conflict over voting seem apparent," Wines writes. "Republicans and Democrats here are in hand-to-hand combat this election year as seldom before. Contests for president and United States senator are neck and neck, and the Republican governor, Pat McCrory, is in a tough bid for re-election. Two congressional races are unfolding in districts whose boundaries were ordered redrawn this year after a federal court ruled that they had been gerrymandered to dilute black voters’ influence."

"According to the State Board of Elections, which certifies local rules, 66 of the 100 county boards—which each have two Republicans and one Democrat—have submitted bipartisan proposals for the November vote," Wines writes. "But the remaining 34 boards could not agree on a plan; frequently, Republican and Democratic members offered rival plans to the state. The State Board of Elections— also in Republican hands—is empowered to impose its own plan when local boards are split." (Read more)

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