Hearing to Challenge North Carolina’s Voter Suppression Law Starts with Compelling Testimonies

At Preliminary Injunction Hearing to Block State’s
Discriminatory Law, Attorneys Show it Disproportionately
Limits Access to the Ballot for Voters of Color

"WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Yesterday marked the first day of a preliminary injunction hearing seeking to block implementation of several provisions of North Carolina's voter suppression law (HB 589), including the elimination of same-day registration, new limitations on early voting, and out of precinct provisional ballots. Along with a team of lawyers from co-counsel Kirkland & Ellis led by Daniel Donovan, and joined by North Carolina lawyers Adam Stein and Irving Joyner, Advancement Project lawyers appeared before Judge Thomas D. Schroeder the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina on behalf of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. Representatives from the League of Women Voters, the U.S. Department of Justice and intervening young voters also presented separate claims regarding the discriminatory effects of HB 589.

“Our movement, and this hearing, builds on the legacy of those who have testified before us with their feet and blood to fight for our equal rights in this state, and certainly in this nation,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. The organization, along with other individual and organizational plaintiffs, brought the case as a leader in North Carolina’s Forward Together Moral Movement, a statewide coalition of more than 150 organizations, and thousands of individual North Carolinians, who for more than a year have protested harmful public policy, including HB 589, passed by current state legislature.

In the week ahead, Advancement Project and co-counsel will argue that North Carolina’s voting law has both the intent and impact of making it harder for African Americans to vote, in direct violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution.

Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair, who delivered opening remarks on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP plaintiffs, expressed in detail how North Carolina’s specific historical and social conditions leading up to the passage of HB 589 show evidence of racial discrimination in the legislation’s intent and outcome. “The restrictive provisions of HB 589, and the enigmatic legislative process that brought this bill to fruition, reveal callous disregard for the pain caused to African-American voters by the stark limitations that this legislation imposes on their equal access to the ballot,” said Hair. “We see clearly the long arm of slavery and Jim Crow reaching into the present.”

The court heard testimony from a range of witnesses, representing multiple levels of participation in North Carolina’s electoral process, from civic organizing to election administration. Among those to take the stand was plaintiff Carolyn Q. Coleman, who began working with the NAACP in 1964 when she accepted her first job out of college. Coleman’s involvement in the NAACP eventually took her from Alabama to North Carolina, where she served as the State Director and had the primary responsibility of coordinating voter registration, outreach, and turnout efforts.

When asked her reaction to the restrictive limitations imposed by HB 589, including the removal of same-day registration, Coleman deemed them simply devastating. “Everything I worked for over 15 years was almost being lost,” Coleman expressed in reaction to the passage of the law. “I would have to start working for the same things. I continue to work to see this changed.”

Other witnesses brought to the stand included State Senator Daniel Blue, Melvin Montford, the Executive Director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and county election officials Gloria Hill and George Gilbert. Each witness reiterated the ways in which African-American voters benefited from many of the state policies that HB 589 repealed, and spoke to the chilling effects the law may have on electoral participation for voters who are now discouraged from voting or explicitly denied equal access to the ballot. For example, Hill, who serves as a member of the Board of Elections and a Precinct Chair in Hoke County, N.C. revealed that approximately 40 voters were turned away in the precinct where she serves after the elimination of same-day registration for the most recent election.

In concluding her testimony, Carolyn Coleman remarked, “I believe in democracy. If I didn’t, I couldn’t keep going. I’ve faced so much discrimination, without a full faith in democracy, I couldn’t do it.”

Today, Rosanell Eaton, a 93-year old plaintiff who overcame literacy tests in the 1940s to gain her right to vote under Jim Crow law, will be among the witnesses to testify as the attorneys continue to reveal the broader implications this injunction hearing has for our national democracy."
A Press Release

No comments: