What should a political party do when it is demographically challenged because its position on many important issues does not appeal to a majority of Blacks, Latinos, Asians and young voters? The Republican Party's solution is to make voting less accessible to minority voters. But this is a losing strategy for a party that has lost its way.
North Carolina Governor Patrick McCrory signed a so-called voting reform bill that imposes strict photo identification requirements on the state's 4.5 million voters, rolls back the early voting period and repeals one-stop registration during early voting. The governor and the state's Republican controlled legislature have imposed a solution is search of a problem. Nearly 7 million votes were cast in the state's 2012 general and two primary elections. But only 121 alleged cases of voter fraud were referred to a district attorney's office, about 1/1000 of a percent of the total votes.
North Carolina is the first state to change its voting laws following this past June's Supreme Court ruling that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That section gave the Justice Department the power to block changes in voting laws in states that had a history of discrimination. The North Carolina law will take effect in 2016, just in time for the presidential election. The governor says 34 states now require some form of ID to vote. North Carolina would be the 20th state to require a photo ID.
Governor McCrory explained why he signed the law in a YouTube video. "The integrity of our election process is vital to our Democracy, which is why I have signed today several common sense reforms into law, including voter ID," the governor said. He pointed out that photo ID "has become a part of our everyday life", noting that one is needed to board an airplane, cash a check or to apply for government benefits. He then said, "Many of those from the extreme left, who have been criticizing photo ID are using scare tactics."
The fact is that the law falls disproportionately on minorities, who tend to vote Democratic. Half of the state's registered voters who lacked a photo ID in 2012 are registered Democrats, a third of whom are Black. A large number of minorities vote early. Under the new law, the days for early voting will be reduced from 17 to 10, even though 61 percent of the state's voters cast their ballots early in 2012.
The American Civil Liberties Union joined two other groups in announcing they would file a suit against parts of the new law. "Eliminating a huge part of early voting will cut off voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of citizens. It will turn Election Day into a mess, shoving more voters into even longer lines," said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.
Florida similarly eliminated a week of early voting before the 2012 election, and we all know how that turned out -- voters standing in line for hours, some having to wait until after the President's acceptance speech to finally vote, and hundreds of thousands giving up in frustration. Those burdens fell disproportionately on African-American voters, and the same thing will happen in North Carolina.
In 2008, President Barack Obama carried North Carolina by a few thousand votes. But the new law may make it harder for the Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state in 2016. The party's likely standard bearer, Hillary Clinton, attacked the new North Carolina law Monday at the American Bar Association's annual conference. Ms. Clinton said the bill "reads like the greatest hits of voter suppression." "In the weeks since the ruling, we've seen an unseemly rush by previously covered jurisdictions to enact or enforce laws that will make it harder for millions of our fellow Americans to vote," Clinton said.
Earlier this year, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus released an autopsy of the party's poor showing in the 2012 national election. The report suggested that the party reach out to minority groups. But Republican voter suppression tactics seem aimed at making it harder for minorities to vote. However, these tactics will likely have the opposite effect in 2016 because they will certainly mobilize more minorities to vote and will turn off independent voters.
As Dale Ho, of the ACLU, said, "We should be making it easier for people to vote, not harder."