Add Rosanell Eaton’s name to the list of those who might be affected by North Carolina’s new voting bill, which starts but doesn’t end with provisions requiring certain forms of photo ID at the polls.
The 92-year-old Eaton is a plaintiff in a lawsuit announced on Monday after North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill, passed at the end of the legislative session with the support of GOP super-majorities in the state House and Senate.
A legal complaint filed by the Advancement Project, a national civil-rights group, on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP and Eaton contends that her ability to vote has been threatened by the law. Eaton’s name on her certified birth certificate does not match the name on her driver’s license or the name on her voter registration card, which could complicate her efforts to obtain the valid ID card the new law requires. Eaton, an African-American, first registered in the 1940s despite intimidation, according to the Advancement Project.
A return to Jim Crow?
Opponents of the new law fear its provisions would particularly target minorities, the elderly, the poor and the young.
“With the stroke of his pen, Gov. McCrory has transformed North Carolina from a state with one of the nation’s most progressive voting systems, where we saw some of the highest voter turnout rates of the last two presidential elections, into a state with the most draconian policies we’ve seen in decades, policies that harken back to the days of Jim Crow,” Advancement Project co-director Penda Hair said.
“The law clearly violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups. It also violates our nation’s cherished promise of equality as expressed in the 14th and 15th Amendments of our Constitution.”
McCrory defended the bill in a video, in which he blamed criticism on “scare tactics” from the “extreme left.” He called the measures “common sense,” and said in a statement, “Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID, and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote.”
North Carolinians are uneasy
Besides the voter ID requirement, the sweeping legislation shortens the early voting period from 17 to 10 days, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-old voters who will be 18 on election day, eliminates same-day voter registration, Sunday voting and straight-ticket voting, prohibits university students from using their college IDs, prohibits paid voter registration drives and increases the number of poll watchers who can challenge a voter’s eligibility. It also increases the maximum allowed campaign contribution for each election from $4,000 to $5,000 and repeals the requirement that candidates endorse ads run by their campaigns.
While voter ID on its own is popular, a Public Policy Polling survey recently found North Carolinians are opposed to many of the bill’s other provisions. For example, the poll found just 33 percent of voters support reducing the early voting period by a week compared to 59 percent who are opposed, with Independents (by a 28 percent to 62 percent margin) and Democrats (22 percent approve/70 percent disapprove) strongly opposed.