NCGOP targeting voting rights, fair districting with voter suppression bill and plan to gerrymander maps to their advantage

NCGOP targeting voting rights, fair districting with voter suppression bill and plan to gerrymander maps to their advantage

Most North Carolinians’ voting rights are currently still intact, thanks to Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto stamp, but it’s only a matter of time before Republicans override that veto and usher in multiple new laws that will make voting more difficult for the average voter.

Here are some of the “highlights” of Senate Bill 747, called “the jumbo jet of a voter suppression bill” by Democratic state Sen. Natasha Marcus:

  • The bill establishes the rights of election observers at polling sites (creating the potential for legalized voter intimidation); 
  • Eliminates the three-day grace period for mail-in ballots that Republicans themselves had previously supported;
  • Attempts to impose discriminatory and unreliable signature matching for mail-in ballots; 
  • Opens the door for mass challenges to ballots by election fraud conspiracy theorists, among other provisions.

These provisions will be in addition to the new voter ID law that is already in place.

Republicans, who have a legislative supermajority thanks to the party switch by Rep. Tricia Cotham (R-Mecklenburg), are getting all of their anti-voting rights wishes granted thanks to their ability to override the governor’s veto.

The restrictions that Republicans have been working to pass have the fingerprints of Trump election conspiracy theorists all over them. State Republican leaders met with the North Carolina Election Integrity Team (NCEIT) and the Election Integrity Network (EIN), which was started by North Carolina-based attorney Cleta Mitchell, before submitting their latest voting legislation. For those who might be unaware, Mitchell took part in the attempted theft of the last presidential election. She was on the January 2021 phone call Donald Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, urging him to search for nearly 12,000 votes that could turn Trump’s 2020 defeat into a victory.

While Republican leaders claimed they “were just receiving input” from EIN and Mitchell, leaked documents obtained by WRAL highlighted just how much influence Mitchell and EIN had on crafting SB 747. According to WRAL, the legislation “largely matches up with the official legislative agenda of [EIN].” The documents also showed that, out of 17 suggestions by either EIN or NCEIT, 12 of them were either included in the bill or were already law (71%).

If that’s not enough evidence to convince you that Republicans don’t take voting rights and fairness seriously, just wait until they begin the community districting process (also known as redistricting). Even the most partisan Democrats and Republicans should be able to recognize that North Carolina voters are split nearly 50-50 when it comes to the candidates they vote for. In statewide and national elections, the margins in our state are often razor-thin or within just a few points. It is rare that a statewide or national candidate from either party wins by more than 3 or 4 points, if even that much.

One would think that with our elections so close, fair districting wouldn’t be so difficult – split up the state so each party has a fair shot of winning in their strongest areas, much like the current (but not for long) congressional maps that resulted in the state sending seven Democrats and seven Republicans to Washington – the very definition of fair in a state like ours.

Unfortunately, politicians in North Carolina and in other states across the country rig the map-drawing process, drawing districts to serve their political interests instead of our communities’ needs. Gerrymandering threatens our democracy, and especially hurts Black and brown voters in North Carolina, as politicians split up communities, divide neighbors and undermine our freedom to choose our representatives.

Republicans will override the governor’s veto of SB 747, but a date for the override vote has not been announced. After the override vote is held, they will turn their attention to gerrymandering our maps in the fall and winter.

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Patrick Zarcone

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