North Carolina’s voter ID law took effect for the first time in the Tuesday primary, possibly blocking 218,000 voters — disproportionately minorities, elders, and college students. One voter compared the new rules to what she endured under the old Jim Crow laws, experiencing the same essential message “elections are not for you.”
According to ThinkProgress, there are about 218,000 registered voters in North Carolina who didn’t have the government identification needed to vote in the March 15th primaries. Some people are calling the process of getting the necessary documentation a nightmare.
The Christian Science Monitor told the story of 85-year-old Ethylene Douglas, who lives in North Carolina and really cared about his right to vote. The African American man’s struggle took two years. He had to make two trips out of state, take four trips to the DMV, and pay $86 dollars to get the documents he needed.
Rosanell Eaton, 94, had a similar experience, making 11 trips to state agencies to get her documents. She compared the experience to having to recite the Preamble of the Constitution in the 1940s to get her rights under Jim Crow.
Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said his organization’s voter protection hotline has been receiving lots of calls from people in the same situation.
He said blocking voters is like something from North Carolina’s dark past.
“We had 100 years of pushing away people from the polls. It was really only in the early 21st century, after 2000, that our participation started to come up, and now we’re going right back to this message of ‘elections are not for you.'”
It’s not clear how many people were turned away on Tuesday or prevented from going to the polls by the voter ID laws, but according to data from the previously week of early voting, 864 people were stopped from having their ballots read.
Opponents say the laws give a disproportionate advantage to Republicans, because the laws mostly affect minorities and young people who largely support the Democratic Party.
According to Hall, the difficulties for young people are sending the wrong message.
“Because this is so much affecting young people, we’re teaching them the wrong lesson about democracy and about voting. We’re really pushing them away from being involved in the political process, and that’s a bad message, but it is the message that’s coming across.”
The voter ID laws were challenged in court. Opponents said they violate the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and put an undue burden disproportionately on African Americans. That lawsuit, brought on by the ACLU and other civil rights groups, was dismissed by a federal court, according to NBC News. The proponents’ case was strengthened by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that nullified certain parts of the Voting Rights Act.
The purported reason North Carolina is blocking voters is fraud, according to Bob Stephens, Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Patrick McCrory.
“North Carolina is joining a majority of states in common sense protections that preserve the sanctity of the voting booth.”
He added that the federal court decision proved the measures were constitutional. Still, as the Washington Post pointed out, voter fraud is “non-existent at the levels imagined by voter ID proponents.”
North Carolina’s measure is still much more lenient than in some other states. The rules are considered “non-strict,” and they allow people without the proper ID to fill out an affidavit and then cast their ballots. Officials are then required to help secure the papers in the future.
In states like Texas, Kansas, and Tennessee, voters without ID must take additional steps before their ballots count.
According to Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights project, the rules in North Carolina are still too prohibitive.
“Even if a handful of properly registered voters are denied the right to participate, that’s a real problem. It’s bad policy, and from our perspective, it violates federal law.”
In North Carolina, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won over the voters.
[Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images]