Amid one of the worst public health crises faced by the state and nation on top of rampant GOP voter suppression tactics, North Carolina set records last November in the number of people eligible to vote, people who cast ballots and saw a drastic increase in voter turnout.
More than 57,000 individuals responded to state and local boards of elections calls for help. More than 30,000 people helped with outreach to senior citizen communities, those with disabilities and others who needed assistance or information about voting. Those efforts didn’t go unnoticed. The State Board of Elections was nationally recognized for its “best practices in recruiting, retaining and training poll workers” for its “Democracy Heroes” program by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
Even more astonishing, it was all done with enthusiasm and grace even with unrelenting meddling and challenges from Republicans in the legislature and state party in their efforts to depress turnout. Imagine that. Working to discourage and inhibit people from voting!
Despite the success, GOP lawmakers across the country and in North Carolina have proposed more than 100 voting restriction laws in order to undermine our democracy and suppress our right to vote, particularly for Black and Brown communities.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Republican lawmakers across the nation have introduced three times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to this time last year.
Recently in North Carolina, Republicans have filed Senate Bill 326, a bill that would strip funding away from local election administrators, shorten the time period that voters can request absentee ballots and includes a strict voter ID requirement — which has been historically blocked in our state due to its blatant racial discriminatory intent — among other measures.
Through the hard work of election officials, workers and volunteers, North Carolina conducted a safe and secure election for all eligible voters despite all the challenges. Yet, instead of honoring those who remained dedicated in protecting our sacred right to vote during a pandemic, the GOP is blatantly targeting our constitutional right and attempting to restrict Black and Brown communities from participating in democracy.
Berger and his legislative followers should be praising state and local officials, workers and volunteers for the amazing job they did giving the state more voter participation than ever.
Rather than looking at ways to handcuff state and local boards as they do their jobs, legislative leaders should be having them appear in open meetings to explain how they did their job so well, outline what they need to do their job even better and vote to provide them with ALL the resources they need.
Legislators who don’t understand that, abuse and ridicule the special trust their constituents have granted them. Legislators need to stop looking for opportunities to rig the system, handpick their voters and keep others out.
Now, more than ever, legislation like HR1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act are essential in ensuring that our communities’ right to vote are protected and that all eligible voters are guaranteed access to the ballot box.
Bottom Line: In 2020, we, the people, showed that when we all vote, we take back the power that for so long, Republicans have attempted to invalidate and suppress.
The GOP’s continued efforts to disenfranchise voters goes to show how much they fear the collective action that voters have in taking away power that these leaders have recklessly vied for over the interests of the people.