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July 11, 2014 1:10 PM A Very Targeted Attack on Voting Rights

By Ed Kilgore

After sitting through a week of testimony in a federal court hearing of a petition for a preliminary injunction against implementation of North Carolina’s new state-of-the-art voter suppression law, The Nation’s Ari Berman files a very comprehensive report. You should read the whole thing, but here’s the crux of the case:

The plaintiffs, including DOJ, the ACLU and the Advancement Project, focused on three specific provisions of the law—the reduction of early voting from 17 days to 10 days, the elimination of same-day registration during the early voting period and the prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast in the right county but wrong precinct. In recent elections, African-Americans were twice as likely to vote early, use same-day registration and vote out-of-precinct.
In 2012, for example, 300,000 African-Americans voted during the week of early voting eliminated by the state, 30,000 used same-day registration and 2,500 cast out-of-precinct ballots. Overall, 70 percent of blacks voted early and African-Americans comprised 42 percent of new same-day registrants.
“It is as if House Bill 589 were designed to deter the very practices that encourage turnout among blacks,” testified expert witness Barry Burden, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Gee, wonder what’s up with that?

Berman also explains how the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder just over a year ago has changed the dynamics of a case like this by saddling the plaintiffs rather than the state with the burden of proof. And there’s no question now the decision was interpreted as a green light by Republican-controlled southern states to lose their inhibitions about blatantly restricting access to the ballot, in many cases (like North Carolina’s) overnight reversing progress that had taken decades to accomplish.

We’ll soon see that the courts have to say, and we’ll also see if minority voters in states like North Carolina become determined to punish at the next opportunity those who don’t want them voting at all.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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