Need Proof of Voting Discrimination? Watch These Videos of N.C. Voters Denied the Right to Vote.
Nearly three years after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in Shelby County v. Holder in June 2013, many Republicans in Congress, including House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, have refused to act on legislation to restore the VRA, contending that they haven’t seen any evidence of voting discrimination.
The North Carolina voters featured in these five new videos would beg to differ. Each of them was denied the right to vote in 2014 after North Carolina lawmakers rewrote state election laws and passed H.B. 589. The law disproportionately burdens students, communities of color, and elderly voters by shortening early voting by a week, eliminating same-day registration, gutting pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, invalidating votes cast out of precinct, and implementing a strict voter ID requirement.
The North Carolina law was passed less than two months after the Supreme Court’s ruling, which prevented the U.S. Department of Justice from reviewing and preventing discriminatory state and local election laws and practices before they take effect. Over in Texas, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott announced immediately after the Shelby decision that the state’s strict voter ID law would be implemented. And as lawsuits challenging the laws in North Carolina and Texas play out in federal court, report after report has documented persistent voting discrimination across the country. The laws are cloaked in concerns of voter fraud, but the only fraud being committed — as the voters below know too well — is the passage of these restrictive measures.
1. After joining the Marine Corps in 2008 and serving for five years, including one year in Afghanistan, Dale Hicks was honorably discharged. In June 2014, he moved to Raleigh. After hearing about H.B. 589, he called his precinct to make sure his address was up-to-date — and was surprised to learn that because of the suspension of same-day registration, a discrepancy on his registration meant he couldn’t vote at all. “As a veteran, your address is constantly changing,” Hicks said. “You know, you finish serving your country and you come back and to be told no, you can’t, your voice will not be heard because your address says 9th street and you live on 7th street — it’s not right.”
2. The suspension of same-day registration also disenfranchised Rev. Moses Colbert, who’s been voting for over 42 years. “Voting is so important to me because my dad’s dad was born a slave,” Colbert recounted. “And if you want to change something, you have to vote.” A mistake by the DMV after he changed addresses cost him his vote. “It made me feel like I had been robbed,” Colbert said. “I’m like, no, this can’t happen in 2014, not in America. But it did.” Allison Riggs, an attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, put it this way: “If same-day registration hadn’t been repealed, Rev. Colbert would have been able to cast a regular ballot and his vote would have counted,” she said. “The only way for people in power to retain power is to keep those folks from voting. It’s a new Jim Crow. They don’t want people of color to vote.”
3. Quisha Mallette moved to a new county for law school and went on the state board of elections’ website to figure out what a person in her position should do — but she still had trouble voting. “When I went to the polling place in my home county, they recommended that I return to the county where I currently live. I returned to that county to make an attempt to vote and I was told at that time that I should have tried to vote in my home county,” Mallette said. “So I asked to cast a provisional ballot just so that I would have an opportunity to vote even if there was a limited chance that it could count.” Her vote didn’t count. But that was the point.
4. Gregory K. Moss, former pastor of the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, saw early voting on Sunday as a natural extension of Sunday church services — but H.B. 589 adversely affected what’s known as “souls to the polls” because it cut out a Sunday from early voting. “At a minimum, 30–40,000 people statewide who tried to vote were not able to vote,” said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “And that doesn’t begin to capture the people that we just don’t know about. These vote suppression efforts are not new, and there’s actually a long tradition of that in North Carolina.”
5. It wasn’t early voting or same-day registration that disenfranchised Rev. Terrillin Cunningham, who growing up had watched her mother take people to their polling places to vote. As a licensed insurance agent trying to vote conveniently during open enrollment period, she cast a ballot out of precinct — something she remembered doing in the past. But in March 2015, she received a phone call from the Department of Justice asking if she knew her vote hadn’t counted. “Not having out of precinct voting has had a significant impact on the ability for African Americans to vote,” she said. “It just infuriated me,” Cunningham recalled. “I pay my taxes. I follow the laws. I do my part as a citizen. I expect to have my voice heard as a citizen.” Had H.B. 589 not been passed in the wake of Shelby, her vote would have counted.