North Carolina is set to introduce what experts say is the most “repressive” attack on the rights of African American voters in decades, barely a month after the US supreme court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act. The bill, which was passed by the state’s Republican-dominated legislature this week, puts North Carolina on collision course with Eric Holder, the attorney general, who has announced plans to protect voter rights in Texas. Civil rights advocates and experts in election law are stunned by the scope of the new law. What began in April as a 14-page bill mainly focused on introducing more stringent ID rules, ostensibly to guard against voter fraud, snowballed over the last week as it passed through the North Carolina senate. By the time it was passed by both houses late on Thursday night, the bill had become a 57-page document containing a raft of measures opposed by voting rights organisations. If the bill is passed by the state’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, voters will be required to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls, and early voting will be shortened from 17 days to 10. Voting rights experts say studies reveal that both measures would disproportionately affect elderly and minority voters, and those likely to vote Democrat.
The bill also ends same-day registration. Instead, voters in the state will be required to register, update their address or make any other needed changes at least 25 days ahead of any election. It also abolishes a popular high-school civics program that registers tens of thousands of students to vote each year, in advance of their 18th birthdays. And it ends straight-ticket voting, the practice of voting for every candidate fielded by a party has on an election ballot, a provision that has been in place in the state since 1925.
Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California and one of the country’s foremost experts on electoral law, said:
It rolls into a single piece of legislation just about all of the tools we’ve seen legislatures use in recent years to try to make it harder for people to register and vote.
Hasen described the bill as “probably the most suppressive voting measure passed in the United States in decades”.