OK, so Donald Trump is right: In certain areas, if you know what we mean, certain powerful interests are conspiring to rig the elections. Which is to say, three North Carolina counties are so outrageously open in their attempt to suppress the black vote that they’ve been sued by the NAACP for purging voter registrations of thousands of eligible voters shortly before the general election, i.e., this very week. Yes, really, in North Carolina, of all places! The lawsuit demanded an immediate stop to the practice and the reinstatement of the purged voters, calling the registration purge “a coordinated effort right out of the GOP playbook to suppress the black vote in the state.”
Voters were kicked off the rolls in Beaufort, Moore, and Cumberland counties based on challenges submitted by Republican activists, who would send a piece of mail to the addresses of thousands of registered Democrats, most of them black, and then challenge the registration of anyone if the mail was returned as undeliverable. You see, in a lovely gesture toward encouraging citizen participation in the process of voter suppression, North Carolina law allows individual citizens to challenge other people’s eligibility to vote. In some cases, the voters had moved within the county and were still eligible to vote; in others, voters’ eligibility was challenged even when they hadn’t moved and the mail was returned due to a postal error.
ThinkProgress profiles one purged voter, James Edward Arthur Sr., whose registration was challenged after he moved into a nursing home:
He testified that he did not receive any notice from the state or the county that his voter registration had been challenged or that he would be required to attend a hearing to keep his right to vote.
“If I knew my right to vote was in jeopardy, I would do whatever I could to protect it,” he said. “I want and plan to vote in the upcoming election, but I am concerned that since my registration has been canceled I will not be able to cast a ballot or it will not be counted.”
Well, hey, if he was foolish enough not to check every two years to see whether his registration had been challenged by a coordinated Republican effort to suppress the black vote, maybe he simply didn’t care enough. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and all that.
The counties (and the state!) are claiming the voter roll purges are perfectly legal, since they’re based on individual challenges, not a mass purge, but the NAACP accuses local Republicans of running a coordinated effort to send out thousands of mailings to voters and then challenge the registration of those who didn’t receive them:
Shane Hubers, a Republican who ran for local office last year, challenged the registration of dozens of voters — the majority of them Democrats — in Beaufort County. In Cumberland County, a single individual used returned mail to challenge the registrations of 3,951 voters. In Moore County, N. Carol Wheeldon, the secretary of the local Republican Party, challenged approximately 400 registered voters.
You know, just ordinary citizens who saw something and said something. Hundreds or thousands of times. The lead attorney for the NAACP suit, Penda Hair (who could not have had an easy time of it in junior high school), said that in Moore county,
“the return address of a right-wing group called the Voter Integrity Project appeared on the piece of mail that was used to challenge voters.”
“This is a very pernicious treatment of voters,” she said.
Also, while you may have been under the impression there would be no math, it’s worth noting that in Beaufort County, African-Americans make up only 25.9 percent of the population. But in what has to be a pure coincidence, over 65 percent of the eligibility challenges have been against black people. That seems almost targeted, now doesn’t it?
You have to give North Carolina Republicans credit for diligence, at least — they’re managing to take all sorts of fascinatingly creative steps to suppress Democratic voting, even after a federal court invalidated the state’s terrible 2013 voting restrictions, which the Fourth District Court of Appeals said were designed to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” County election boards have closed huge numbers of early-voting locations, for instance; Guilford County went from 16 early voting sites in 2012 to just one this year. After an outcry, the county opened additional early voting sites, but wouldn’t you know it, turnout for early voting in that county is down 85 percent from four years ago. Must be because all those folks just don’t care to vote this year for some reason. (Seriously, we saw a rightwing forum post claiming blacks were staying away from the polls both because they’re racist against Hillary Clinton for being white, and because North Carolina’s black voters are staying home out of disgust at her use of an unauthorized email server while she was secretary of State. Logic!)
Among other voters who’ve had their registration challenged, there’s 100-year-old Grace Hardison, who did at least receive a notice that her registration had been challenged, but had to attend a hearing to prove she was eligible to vote. She was one of the voters challenged by Shane Hubers, the failed mayoral candidate, who challenged her eligibility because a letter he sent to her home address was returned. Clearly, an ineligible voter — except that she says she’s always had her mail delivered to the post office. After local reporting on Hardison’s case led to outrage, the challenge was withdrawn, but you’ve got to bet there are plenty of voters who don’t have the advantage of being a much-loved local centenarian.
The voter roll purges are only the latest in a string of attempts to suppress the black vote in spite of the federal court decision striking down the state law. Last Thursday, a federal court ordered the state to allow provisional ballots from tens of thousands of voters who had registered to vote at state motor vehicle offices, but whose names had somehow not been added to voter rolls. This was a 60 percent dropoff since 2013.
Coincidentally, a Republican, Pat McCrory, became governor in 2012.
At this point, it may be time for the United Nations and Jimmy Carter to supervise North Carolina elections.