I wanted to share with you the facts about what the 2013 voting law did and did not do, despite what this “reporter” from NBC News claims. My response is provided in the body of his “article” in bold and italics. I welcome your feedback and look forward to a continued dialogue—based on the facts, of course.
Stacey Stitt works at a Popeye's in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he makes $7.75 an hour—just 50 cents above the national minimum.
Stitt wanted to vote in his state's primary in March. But he had lost his driver's license the previous month, and because he didn't have a copy of his birth certificate—he was born on a U.S. military base in Germany—he hadn't received a new one by Election Day. Until a few years ago, Stitt would nonetheless have been able to cast a ballot simply by attesting to his identity. But in 2013, North Carolina passed a strict new voting law including an ID provision. That meant Stitt, who is 35 and African-American, was out of luck.
FALSE: There is a provision for people in the precarious situation such as Mr. Stitt. The General Assembly passed legislation that allowed individuals such as Mr. Stitt to complete a reasonable impediment affidavit at the polls. The reasonable impediment provision allows people to sign an affidavit stating that they lack a valid photo identification for voting purposes yet allows them to cast their ballot. Contrary to the claim above, Mr. Stitt would have been able to vote without an identification card.
Still, he considered going to the polls in hopes of casting a provisional ballot. But even that proved impossible when he found out he was scheduled to work all day. A two-hour round-trip commute by bus—Stitt can't afford a car—leaves him little time for much else on work days. And being even a few minutes late can mean getting written up.
"It might have just been a nuisance for someone with more control over their schedule, and more time," Stitt told reporters Monday. But for him, he said, it meant disenfranchisement. "The voting restrictions that North Carolina created made it impossible for me to vote this year. And I know I'm not alone."
The General Assembly actually created more flexibility in voting hours when they passed new voting laws in 2013. In fact, the Legislature passed a bipartisan amendment that would actually offer more opportunities for hard working individuals like Mr. Stitt who work long hours to make it to the polls. As a result of the amendment passed, counties were required by law to offer the same number of cumulative hours for voting as were offered prior to the 2013 law being enacted. The practical result of this was that locations opened earlier and stayed open later. In other words, folks that worked long hours, say 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., would in many cases still be afforded the opportunity to vote on their way to or from work. Prior to this law, most voting locations did not provide early morning or late evening hours. We made it easier for Mr. Stitt to vote and absent this law, Mr. Stitt would still not have been able to vote on election day with or without an identification card because of his work schedule, not the legislation passed in 2013. Finally, North Carolina offers voters no excuse absentee voting. What does that mean? Well, we recognize that folks like Mr. Stitt have little to no control over their schedule and work unpredictable hours and as a result he or she may request—at any time—to have their ballot mailed to them for the upcoming election and then vote from the comfort of their home. That’s right, Mr. Stitt could, today, send in an absentee request form to his local board of elections for the November election and be sent a ballot closer to election day. What’s that you say, he wants to exercise the franchise in person? No worries, Mr. Stitt can simply discard the absentee ballot and go over in person shall his schedule permit come Election Day. You see, despite the narrative you try to portray the facts just don’t bear out your story.
Stitt's experience underlines how the controversial law—which goes before a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia Tuesday—threatens not only to undermine democracy in the abstract, but also to tilt the scales on crucial real-world issues.
Judge Thomas Schroeder wrote a 450+ page opinion on the merits of the VIVA law, affirming the common sense, mainstream election law changes passed in 2013.
There's little dispute that the law—which in addition to the ID measure includes cuts to early voting, the elimination of same-day voter registration and a ban on out-of-precinct voting, among other restrictions—hits racial minorities and the young hardest. If it keeps large numbers of them from the polls, it could undercut the strength of political causes driven by those voters—among the most prominent, the fight for higher pay for fast-food workers, in which Stitt has been active.
It's not hard to see how the issues intertwine. Fast-food workers want not just higher pay but more control over their schedules. They complain that they're often given only a day or two notice in advance of a shift. And restrictions on voting consistently hit those with the least free time or control over their schedules hardest, because it's harder for them to take time to get the ID needed or to make it to the polls when hours are shortened.
Again, how were the hours shortened? As stated above, a bipartisan amendment kept the voting hours the same for all elections going forward as the most recent previous election. Furthermore, Mr. Stitt could have voted using the reasonable impediment provision.
It's no coincidence that the North Carolina voting law's Republican backers have also aimed to stymie the fight for a living wage: The "bathroom bill" that spurred national outrage in March for its impact on the LGBT community also included a little-noticed provision that barred local governments from raising their minimum wage or mandating other benefits for workers.
Respectfully, we must agree to disagree on this issue. Minimum wages hikes put stress on businesses, drive out human capital in place for innovation, and increase costs.
Economic issues aside, the stakes in the case could hardly be higher. The voting law—the strictest in the nation—could affect election outcomes this fall, giving Republicans a boost in a pivotal state in the presidential race, as well as tight Senate and governor's races. And if the case ends up before the Supreme Court, as appears possible, it could form the basis of a broad ruling in which the court more clearly spells out when voting restrictions do and don't violate the Voting Rights Act.
Patently false, this is not the strictest law in the nation. Neither the Voter ID portion nor the election administration portions are the strictest in the nation. The law passed in 2013 actually brings North Carolina into the mainstream of states when it comes to election administration and procedure.
Here's how we got here: In June 2013, the Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, weakened the Voting Rights Act by neutering the requirement that most southern states, including North Carolina, get federal signoff before changing their voting laws. Six weeks later, North Carolina Republicans passed their multi-pronged voting law. In April, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder ruled to uphold the law, noting that minority turnout was in fact greater in 2014, with the law in effect, than in the 2010 midterms.
But lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department and the North Carolina NAACP, who are challenging the law, say that proves little, because all sorts of other factors influence turnout (and, they note, a highly competitive Senate race, which could have determined control of the chamber, drew voters to the polls in 2014). In addition, the ID provision didn't go into effect until this year.
Might I note that the US Justice Department spent untold resources sending dozens of their tax-payer funded lawyers down here for the initial trial. Again—let’s examine the facts. African-American turnout was up in the March Primary versus the 2012 Primary. That’s right, increased. Nearly 90,000 more African Americas vote in the 2016 Presidential Primary than voted in the 2012 Presidential Primary—an increase of nearly 3% of the total votes cast. The facts are the facts; the empirical evidence doesn’t support the claim that the 2013 law reduces turn out.
More broadly, the plaintiffs have offered clear evidence that non-white voters are more likely than white voters to lack ID, to use early voting and same-day registration and to vote out of their precinct. And they say that's because of an undisputed history of social and economic discrimination in the state—a condition that's required for a court to find a violation of the Voting Rights Act's Section 2.
The law provides the same opportunity to all North Carolinians, regardless of race.
Days before Schroeder heard the case last year, North Carolina softened the ID requirement, allowing people without an ID to vote if they affirmed that they had a "reasonable impediment" that stopped them getting one. But the change wasn't well publicized, and what counts as a reasonable impediment was left up to poll workers.
Again, false. Actually, the reasonable impediment was left to the discretion of the individual voter. Let me ask, Mr. Roth, have you ever seen the reasonable impediment form? If you had, you would know that the voter has the option of checking an “other” box and then explaining their impediment. At no point are poll workers the judge and jury to determine the reasonableness of the voters stated impediment. I know, I know. Again, those pesky facts get in the way of you emotionally inaccurate, patently false story.
Also, for the record the factual points of the reasonable impediment were touted by the State Board of Elections during a huge public relations campaign over the last couple of years. The State dedicated massive resources to an extremely professional rollout to educate voters on the new provisions.
In a promising sign for the plaintiffs, Tuesday's appeal was heard by the same three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that issued an injunction against parts of the law in 2014. All three judges were appointed to the appeals court by Democratic presidents, though one, Judge Henry Floyd, was previously appointed to a federal district court by President George W. Bush.
That injunction was later lifted by the Supreme Court, allowing the law to stay in effect for that year's midterm elections. One study by a progressive group found that it disenfranchised more than 30,000 would-be voters.
To be clear, that study was not an academic study done without bias. That study was “conducted” by radical, leftist activists whose ideas and solutions have been rejected time and time again at the ballot box by the voters of North Carolina who then resort to trying to salvage victories through the courts.
Dale Ho, a lawyer with the ACLU, which is helping to bring the challenge to the law, said that on Tuesday, the judges seemed more interested than they had been in 2014 in the legislature's intent in passing the law—suggesting they could be open to the claim that lawmakers acted with the deliberate intent to discriminate.
The intent of the North Carolina General Assembly has been and always will be to address the real and perceived election fraud in order to protect the vote of each and every voter. We will continue to ensure, just as we have all along, that each and every citizen has the right to vote and that their votes, cumulatively determine the outcome of our elections while not allowing any other citizens vote to be diluted by ballots that should have never been counted in the first place.
Ho said Thomas Farr, a lawyer for North Carolina, was asked at one point why the legislature, after the Shelby County ruling, changed the bill to remove public assistance agency IDs from the list of acceptable IDs—a move that hit black voters hardest. "I don't know," Farr replied, according to Ho.
The General Assembly had a robust and healthy dialogue on which identifications would be acceptable and not acceptable. Ultimately, the law was adopted to only accept photo identification issued by a state government or the federal government; public assistance agency IDs were not the only ID removed from the bill after the Shelby County ruling.
Furthermore, if Mr. Roth really seeks to discuss trends of disenfranchisement, maybe he should spend his time writing about the closed New York Primary that prevented nearly 3 million people from exercising their right to vote during the most recent presidential primary.
I’d recommend instead of writing a piece devoid of factual information about North Carolina, Mr. Roth spend his time writing pieces about his home state of New York which offers no early voting and does not offer no excuse absentee voting. Again, which state has radical voting laws?
And lastly, while I will not try to impugn or question the motives of Mr. Stitt as the plaintiffs have tried to do with the bill sponsors and the Republican led North Carolina General Assembly in passing the 2013 voting law, I would just like to submit that while Mr. Stitt claims to have wanted to vote in the March primary, he has been registered to vote since 1998; however, he has yet to vote in any election held in our state in the last 18 years. Surely, he could have voted without ID in any of the 20 or so elections since 1998?