NC voting laws still concern citizens after election

Jerrica Thomas, Staff Writer

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — The minority voter turnout for the 2016 general election was lower than the 2012 election partially because of voting laws in North Carolina and other southern states, according to NBC News.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund, a 501(c)(4) legislative advocacy organization that promotes and protects the civil and human rights of U.S. citizens, reported in “The Great Poll Closure” that North Carolina had 27 fewer polling sites in 2016 than in 2012, as reported on NBC News. This affected minority voters, particularly African-Americans.

Roth stated that African-American voter turnout decreased  8.7 percent since the 2012 elections, based on a report by Michael McDonald, political science professor at the University of Florida. Lack of enthusiasm over the 2016 candidates could have played a factor in the decline.

However, the main cause was restrictions on early voting. In August, a federal court discovered that Republican officials in North Carolina were intentionally making it harder for African-American citizens to vote, according to Roth.

Prior to the election, officials imposed voting rules that restricted access to early voting. Early voting hours were reduced and, as mentioned before, fewer polls were available in North Carolina.

In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated section five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for the Shelby County v. Holder case, as reported by Davis McKinney of The Daily Tarheel. Section five made “election laws passed by certain state or local governments subject to pre-approval by a federal court or the attorney general” to avoid voter discrimination based on ethnicity.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to ensure that state and local governments do not pass laws that deny voting by citizens based on their race, according to the Brennan Center of Justice at New York University School of Law.

The Shelby County v. Holder case invalidated section four of the Voting Rights Act, which determined which state and local governments with a history of discrimination were protected by section five. Entire states that were protected under section five of the Voting Rights Acts were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Forty counties in North Carolina were protected by Section five. Two counties, Pasquotank and Cleveland,  in “The Great Poll Closure” were examined by The Leadership Conference Education Fund.

Pasquotank county is 38 percent African-American. There were 13 polling sites in this county in 2012. Only nine remained in 2016. Cleveland county, whose population is 40 percent African-American, had 26 polling sites in 2012. They have 21 this year.

Cleveland lost five polling sites in 2014 when the board of elections combined the five polling sites into one site in Shelby, North Carolina. Cleveland County’s NAACP chapter opposed the decision.

“We know that this is a part of a bigger trend — a movement to suppress people’s right to vote,” Rev. Dante Murphy, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church and president of Cleveland County’s NAACP, said.

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