Yesterday, a group of 100 scholars issued a statement saying that our democracy is at risk. This weekend, Texas tried to pass a voter suppression law that would restrict access to the ballot and allow officials to overturn election results based on accusations of fraud. Numerous states have already passed similar laws based on the false accusations of voter fraud made by Donald Trump. More have legislation pending, but it all started here in North Carolina.
When Republicans first took control of the legislature and Governor’s Mansion in 2012, the country looked on in shock as they attacked much of what made the state so attractive. They cut funding for our universities and reduced per pupil spending in K-12 schools. They refused to expand Medicaid, leaving about 500,000 North Carolinians without health insurance. They shifted the tax burden from the wealthy and corporations onto the backs of the middle class. They put Amendment 1 on the ballot and passed the notorious HB-2 that kept companies from relocating here and people from visiting our state. They implemented the most egregious gerrymandering in the country, leaving an evenly divided state with veto-proof GOP majorities in both houses of the legislature and a 10-3 advantage in the Congressional delegation.
And they passed the monster voter suppression bill. Republicans looked at voting patterns to determine how Democratic constituencies, especially African Americans, cast ballots and then tried to make voting harder. They moved early voting locations away from areas where Democrats lived. They reduced early voting hours and eliminated Sunday voting. They passed restrictive voter ID requirements that banned the use of forms of identification more likely to be used by Black citizens. As one judge wrote, they targeted African American voters with “surgical precision.”
Fortunately, the courts overturned the law and the Supreme Court refused to take it up on appeal. However, the strategies and tactics seen in that bill are being repeated in GOP-controlled legislatures across the country. And like the Republicans in North Carolina, they cite the mythical voter fraud as the reason. It’s the origin of Trump’s Big Lie. In an Orwellian twist, the exceedingly rare cases of voter fraud, they claim, are the real threat to our democracy. They have yet to show any credible evidence of widespread voter fraud in the country.
Today, the Republican Party is taking national what it tried to do in North Carolina when it passed the monster voter suppression bill back in 2013. Some of the measures included in the current voter suppression bills make North Carolina’s bill almost quaint. In Georgia and Texas, bills would make it easier for elected or appointed bodies to overturn the will of the people. They would restrict personal behavior such as taking food and water to people waiting in line to vote or dictating who can offer rides to the polls. The entire justification for their action is based on the lie of widespread voter fraud, just as it was in North Carolina eight years ago.
Republicans are emboldened by the conservatives appointed to the Supreme Court. They hope they can use laws and gerrymandering to shape the electorate to hold power in a country that is quickly becoming more progressive and more tolerant than the GOP. And they hope the courts will uphold them. What they started here in North Carolina, they hope to achieve nationally. They want to use rigging the system to hold power. Stopping them should be the top priority of anybody who values democracy.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >