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Voting Rights

Voting is the cornerstone of democracy. And yet, throughout our history we have excluded indispensable voices from this fundamental right. African-Americans, women and young people all risked their lives for and eventually gained the right to vote. Voter turnout in the 2008 election was the most racially diverse in American history, closing the longstanding gap between white and minority voter participation. In response to this historic moment, however, lawmakers nationwide have erected more barriers to the ballot box. 

Democracy Can't Wait

Posted on in Voting Rights

By Dale Ho, Director, ACLU Voting Rights Project

Today, the state of North Carolina will try to convince a judge to postpone a trial concerning the country's worst voter suppression law until after the 2014 midterm elections. The state's reason: So that it can carry out the elections under a regime that would burden thousands of eligible voters before the court has a chance to determine whether it violates federal law.

The ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice are challenging the law which cuts early voting by a week, gets rid of same-day voter registration, and imposes a new voter ID requirement. Voters are also no longer allowed to cast provisional ballots for upper-ticket races like the U.S. Senate if they show up at the wrong polling place or get in the wrong precinct line to vote. Proponents of the law (including Governor Pat McCrory) say that the changes are necessary to improve the integrity of elections. Aside from trying to address the almost-nonexistent rate of voter fraud in North Carolina, there's absolutely no evidence that cutting a week of early voting gets at election integrity.


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice today asked a federal court to hear their legal challenge to North Carolina's sweeping voter suppression law in time for voters to participate in the crucial 2014 midterm elections. In contrast, North Carolina asked the court to delay the trial date well into 2015. The law takes effect next month.

 “What is Governor McCrory so afraid of?" said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. “If he truly believes in the integrity of elections, he'd want this case resolved as soon as possible. Instead, he wants these suppressive measures in place during the 2014 elections, making it harder for North Carolinians to vote.”

Immediately after Gov. Pat McCrory signed the voter suppression bill into law in August, the ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed their legal challenge. The suit targets provisions that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit "out-of-precinct" voting. The groups charge that enacting these provisions would unduly burden the right to vote and discriminate against African-American voters, in violation of the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“These measures need to be reviewed for their legality and their constitutionality before the next election,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. "No person's right to vote in North Carolina should be jeopardized without that judicial review.”

By Julie Ebenstein, Staff Attorney, ACLU Voting Rights Project

On The Daily Show Wednesday, we had the misfortune of hearing from North Carolina GOP executive committee member Don Yelton, whose despicable comments on North Carolina's new voter suppression law included "if it hurts a bunch of lazy Blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it."

Here is the man who chooses poll watchers and recommends election judges advertising his backward views on national television. He is a problem and has resigned. But the discriminatory law North Carolina passed in July, which will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, is a badder, broader, more bigoted problem. And it is still in effect.

North Carolina has a long and sad history of official discrimination against African Americans, including official discrimination in voting that has touched upon the right of African Americans and other people of color to register, vote, or otherwise participate in the democratic process.


In a recent interview with the Raleigh News & Observer, comedian Lewis Black, who regularly appears on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and has a home in Chapel Hill, took a moment to talk about his opposition to North Carolina's recently passed voter suppression law, as well as his support of the ACLU's work to protect voting rights. Here's the relevant part of the interview:

Q: Do you get involved much on the local level, when you’re down in North Carolina?

A: Well, I just did Charlotte and really, if I had any brains, I’d leave the road now and just do comedy in North Carolina. I’d be set, with what these people are doing. Actually, I’m working with the ACLU right now on voting rights stuff. I hate saying the ACLU, because people get psychotic around that word.


RALEIGH – The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that it will file a lawsuit in federal court challenging key provisions of North Carolina’s new election law, widely considered to be the harshest voter suppression law in the nation.

The Justice Department lawsuit will reportedly challenge the law’s cuts to early voting, elimination of same-day voter registration, elimination of “out-of-precinct” voting, and new requirements that voters present forms of photo ID that many eligible voters in North Carolina lack.

In response to today’s announcement, Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, released the following statement: