By John Hinton, Winston-Salem Journal, published in Greensboro News-Record, June 24, 2015.
A noisy protest staged last week by the state NAACP at the N.C. Legislative Building in Raleigh forced legislators to pass the law that modifies the voter ID law, the Rev. William Barber, the president of the N.C. chapter of the NAACP, said Wednesday.
“They blinked,” Barber said. “They had to go back and fix what was clearly voter suppression.”
Barber and nine other protesters were arrested after they demonstrated against the law. Legislators complained about the noise from the demonstration to the General Assembly police.
They were released from custody last week on bond.
About 150 people participated in the demonstration.
On Tuesday, Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a bill that allows some North Carolina registered voters to vote in person without the photo identification required starting next year.
Legislators approved the bill last Thursday to ease the photo ID mandate passed in 2013. That law said anyone at an early-voting center or Election Day precinct must show a qualifying photo ID for the vote to count.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other plaintiffs are challenging the law, arguing that it violates the 14th and 15th amendments and the Voting Rights Act.
Barber and Donita Judge, an attorney with the Advancement Project of Washington, D.C., discussed the voter ID law and the July 13 trial in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem in a teleconference with reporters Wednesday. The Advancement Project, a civil-rights organization, is working with the NAACP on the case.
McCrory and the State Board of Elections are the defendants in the case.
Last August, U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction that would have barred the law’s provisions. Schroeder ruled that the plaintiffs, including Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, failed to prove that the law would have done irreparable harm to black voters.
However, Schroeder refused to dismiss three lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law and set a trial date for July 13.
Barber said the amended law was an 11th-hour attempt to gain public support for the legislation before the trial.
It is a “deliberate race-based voter suppression law passed by the state house and signed by our governor,” Barber said. “It violates our deepest constitutional values and our deepest religious and moral values, which demand equal protection under the law and the establishment of justice.”
The law also reduces the days of early voting from 17 to 10, eliminates same-day voter registration and gets rid of pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds. Barber said those provisions could suppress voter turnout among blacks and Hispanics in the 2016 elections, he said.
“This is a bad, bad law,” Barber said. “That’s why we are challenging it.”
Shelly Carver, a spokeswoman for state Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) the Senate’s president pro-tem, declined to comment directly on Barber’s statements.
“It is a poor use of our time to respond to the nonstop reporting on Rev. Barber’s discredited claims,” Carver said.
The offices of McCrory and N.C. House Speaker, Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, didn’t respond to requests to comment on Barber’s statements.
Barber also announced plans for the NAACP to hold a rally on July 12 at Union Baptist Church on Trade Street, and a rally in Corpening Plaza in downtown Winston-Salem on July 13 after the trial’s first day in U.S. District Court.
Isaac “Ike” Howard, the president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said there are plans to stage a march through downtown beginning at 8 a.m. on July 13. Organizers are working with city officials to determine the route. Organizers are planning for about 2,500 people to attend the rally at Union Baptist Church on July 12.