Election Hurdle Higher
After injunction denial, locals say registration, turnout key
(pictured above: Linda Sutton speaks at a rally in July.)
Local leaders are disappointed by last week’s decision to deny an injunction that would have halted controversial GOP-enacted voting measures before the November election, but they are vowing to use the setback as fuel in their fight to get more people registered and to the polls.
“We are still going to stand our ground and continue to push for the rights of residents and citizens of North Carolina, especially in regards to voting rights,” said S. Wayne Patterson, the president of the Winston-Salem branch of the NAACP.
The N.C. NAACP and other groups had asked for the injunction last month in a federal courtroom in Winston-Salem, seeking a temporary halt of the state’s voter ID requirement, same-day voting/registration elimination and other measures they say disenfranchise voters.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder denied the injunction Friday. The NAACP will now have to fight the law at trial, but the case won’t be scheduled and determined by November’s mid-term election. While the voter ID requirement won’t go into effect until 2016, the ban on same-day registration and the truncated early voting schedule will now almost certainly stand this year.
Patterson is concerned that such factors will keep some from voting.
“It has taken North Carolina backwards 50 years. I think so many people have died for the right to vote,” Patterson said. “This means more challenges for local residents especially those individuals who are older and in poverty.”
Rev. Willard W. Bass Jr., the head of the Minsters Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, called Judge Schroeder’s ruling a travesty, opining that the judge did not have “the will or necessary information in order to consider the injunction as a means to keeping the playing field equal.”
“It is a concern for me that he did not choose to put the injunction in place to make sure everything was the way it was before the law was passed,” Bass said. “I didn’t even like his response. He said he wasn’t sure whether there was issue or not so he would let things remain the same in order to see if there was a problem. I thought that was really unfair.”
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, also took issue with the judge’s rationale.
“If one elderly or young person, black, white or Latino decides she won’t vote because of the shorter early voting weeks, the elimination of same-day voting, the confusing ballots without straight party voting and other sections of this voter suppression law that are still standing because of today’s court decision, that is indeed an irreparable harm,” he said in a statement. “The harm is irreparable to the voter…and to our democracy. Similarly, people who have heard all the talk about having photo ID’s and decides they can’t vote this November because they don’t have one, will suffer an irreparable harm.”
Linda Sutton, a local organizer for Democracy NC, said the ruling did not surprise her.
“I expected it because the judicial system has become so partisan, from the Supreme Court all the way down,” she said.
She is disappointed, though, that the justice system has refused to affirm a right that many fought and died to obtain.
“It is sad and very disappointing that our judicial system can’t uphold the rights of our voters and making sure that all of the citizens have a right to vote and making sure there are no variables in their way … Minorities have been disenfranchised for so long. We had to fight to get it and now have to fight to keep it.”
The judge’s decision means that groups like Democracy NC and the NAACP have their jobs cut out for them. Even before the ruling, they had pledged to register thousands of new voters across the state. The NAACP’s Moral March to the Polls campaign has already dispatched volunteers to every corner of the state to help with registration efforts.
Bass hopes voters’ disappointment propel them to the voting booth.
“The biggest impact that we could have right now would be challenging people about their voting. There is no need to dwell on what has happened now, we have to move forward,” he said.
The voter registration deadline is Friday, Oct. 10. Registration forms are available online at www.co.forsyth.nc.us/elections.