Last week, federal courts declared North Carolina, Kansas, and Wisconsin state voting laws to be unconstitutional and guilty of contributing to the disenfranchisement of low income and black voters.
The North Carolina law, particularly, was found to to violate racial discrimination in voting, as Republican state legislators enacted the laws specifically after receiving data on African American voting patterns.
In North Carolina, Election Day registration, early voting, and registration prior to turning 18 were all eliminated in 2013 as a result of North Carolina’s strict election laws. In their place were more restrictive voter identification laws that targeted black people. These laws were allegedly put in place to “prevent voter fraud,” although legal and political experts have found little to no evidence of rampant fraud at the polls.
Further, the North Carolina state legislature enacted these laws shortly after the Supreme Court struck down a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that closely monitored the voting laws in states with a history of racial discrimination.
The decision underscores the “inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina,” and calls out the legislators for their handiwork, as the law “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision” and “imposed cures for problems that did not exist.”
According to the legal record, North Carolina state Republicans manufactured issues where there were none in order to prevent black people from voting and they violated the Constitution while they were at it.
Unfortunately, North Carolina was not the only state with egregious and unconstitutional voting laws. Laws in both Kansas and Wisconsin were also struck down last week. The Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, attempted to eliminate all state and local election votes by individuals who had not presented a birth certificate at registration.
This would include individuals registered by “motor voter,” which means they were registered to vote when they obtained their driver’s license. The Kansas City Star estimates that the rule would have affected almost 50,000 individuals by November.
Thankfully, this law was struck down last week, along with a slew of “wretched” voting restrictions in Wisconsin that disproportionately impacted black and Hispanics and favored Republican officials and their constituencies.
In light of the choices voters are facing this November, it is imperative that disenfranchising laws are challenged and that voters know their rights. Click here to check your registration status, to learn about how to get registered to vote in your state, and to ensure that you meet any and all requirements before Election Day.
We must stay vigilant and ensure that our communities are properly registered and know their rights, for as these shoddy, racist laws demonstrate: they will do all they can to keep us from using our voice.
Photo Credits: Flickr, K. Latham