A little context is in order.
Over the years, Republican legislators in North Carolina have invested a considerable amount of time, money and energy in suppressing votes to retain power.
They’ve done so by pushing voter ID laws that favored IDs easily obtainable by white residents while forbidding those more likely to be held by Black residents, who tend to vote more heavily for Democrats. In 2013, one such attempt was struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which stated its conclusion that the law targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision.”
They’ve done so by gerrymandering congressional districts that reduce the power of Black votes, as in 2011, when, according to a panel of federal judges, they drew maps in a way that allowed them to control 10 of the state’s 13 congressional districts. (Republican legislators denied racial motives, contending that they only meant to gain partisan advantage by packing more Black voters into two districts.)
And they’ve accompanied these efforts with constant fairy tales of unsubstantiated “voter fraud” intended to weaken the public’s confidence in election results. That strategy, applied nationwide, contributed largely to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
And they’ve not quit yet. Mimicking the nationwide effort to pass new voter-suppression laws — at least 389 bills with restrictive voting provisions have been introduced in 48 states this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice — N.C. Senate Republicans passed a trio of election measures Wednesday, sending them to the N.C. House, that on the surface may seem benign, but are intended, once more, to suppress votes.
One would require mail-in absentee ballots to be received by mail or by hand by the date of the election in order to count. (Current law provides a three-day grace period for envelopes postmarked by the primary or general election date.) Another prohibits the acceptance of private money to administer elections and the third is a less stringent voter ID requirement.
“These bills are not about election integrity and they are not about transparency,” Manny Mejia with Democracy North Carolina said recently. “They are about controlling who has the right to vote by repeating tactics that have historically disenfranchised voters.”
Again, these bills may seem harmless, even justifiable, but their intent is clear: to reduce the number of legitimate votes that are accepted and counted.
It has been Republican orthodoxy for some time now that when more people vote, more Democrats win. It’s an idea that once was only spoken quietly, but more recently has come closer to the surface. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the idea of making Election Day a national holiday — an idea supported by 65% of the public — a Democratic Party “power grab.” Last November, Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “If we don’t do something about voting by mail, we’re gonna lose the ability to elect a Republican in this country.” And former President Trump said last year that if early and absentee voting options were expanded, as Democrats wanted, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
But that doesn’t justify cheating voters out of their vote.
Fortunately, in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper, a strong voting-rights advocate, is expected to veto the bill, if it gets that far. But they keep trying.
We’d prefer a state Republican Party that tried to win by promoting conservative solutions to the problems we face; that advocated a market-based transition toward clean energy; that supported urban communities by pushing for job innovation, increased internet access and stable medical facilities; that stopped shifting the tax burden from the well-to-do to working families; that provided adequate, constitutionally mandated resources for our schools without having to be sued to do so; that sought to promote unity rather than division through hot-button wedge issues.
Some would say that in making such suggestions, we’re asking conservatives to be progressives.
We’re only asking them to win elections honestly — by appealing to a majority of voters.
Or to at least stop trying to suppress Black votes.