We have been inundated by a spate of news reports alleging that voter registration laws are crafted to thwart poor and minorities. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) claims in bold headline, “New voting laws in the south could affect millions of African Americans.”
The online news magazine Politico quotes a federal appeals court as saying that North Carolina’s voter registration law was intentionally racially discriminatory.
The Washington Post labeled the North Carolina act a “monster” law and the Chicago Tribune joined the chorus by reprinting the same article.
North Carolina black voters were “targeted…with almost surgical precision” is how the New York Times framed the story when citing the appeals court ruling.
This anti-black, anti-Latino, anti-poor, anti-minority narrative was promulgated by other major news organizations including the Huffington Post, CNN, NBC News, Fox News, and National Public Radio (NPR).
However, the claim that poor and minorities are prevented from voting in North Carolina because of registration requirements is a lie.
What the law says—Photo ID
Critics of North Carolina’s law focus on the requirement that voters must provide “an acceptable photo ID.” But they ignore the rest of the phrase that clearly states, “when voting in person.”
Of course, no photo ID is required for an absentee ballot.
Reading further you discover that the NC law lists several exemptions to this photo ID requirement that permit you to still vote in person (my emphasis). The exemptions are “due to reasonable impediments” that made it impossible to get a photo ID. These reasonable impediments include “family obligations, transportation problems, work schedule or disability…”
It’s obvious that NC voters should have a photo ID, but the existing law clearly permits several explanations for not having one. So that argument is bogus.
What the law says—One Stop Voting
NC law allows registered voters to cast ballots in person before Election Day. Some critics allege this “in-person” proviso is inconvenient. If so, it’s equally inconvenient for persons of all race and economic status not just poor and minorities. So that argument is bogus.
What the law says—Registration Deadline
If you decided today to vote on November 8, you could register on Tuesday of this week–63 days before the general election. Two full months to gather all registration materials you need even if you moved to North Carolina tomorrow—regardless of your race or economic status.
So the appeals court ruling that the shortened period for registration and absentee voting is discriminatory is bogus.
What the law says—Out of Precinct Voting
One year I was a volunteer at our precinct voting station. A young university professor with a doctorate degree entered to vote. He was in the wrong precinct so I had to turn him away. But I was able to help him locate the correct voting location based on his address.
The requirement to vote in his correct precinct was so obvious to both of us as to be unworthy of discussion.
But some critics claim the same requirement in North Carolina is discriminatory despite how easy it is to locate your proper precinct voting station.
If I moved to Chapel Hill, NC tomorrow (Google told me I live in Orange County), I could find my voting precinct by typing my address on this site. Let’s say my new home is at 123 Magnolia Court. By clicking “Lookup Precinct” I find that I go to Smith Middle School to vote. And there is a Google Map to give me directions.
Even if North Carolina’s voter registration law—and similar measures in other states—were intended to make it difficult for poor and minorities to vote, they would fail.
As demonstrated above, residents regardless of race and economic status have the same opportunity to register and vote in North Carolina and are equally subject to the same requirements and restrictions regardless of inconvenience. That is true of all other states in America.
The more important question is whether the poor and minorities want to register and vote. If they do, there will always be people ready to help them. North Carolina and other states impose no barriers that prevent any citizens from going to polls on November 8. There are no excuses.
The news narrative is false. And the federal appeals court ruling was unnecessary.