N.C. Hate Crimes Bill Not Getting Traction


October 4, 2019 1:10PM
Cash Michaels
Cash Michaels

For the third time in the past ten years, the NC NAACP has filed a motion in federal court against Governor Roy Cooper and the state of North Carolina seeking a preliminary injunction “…prohibiting the enforcement of a North Carolina law that requires photo voter ID and vastly increases the number of authorized poll observers—Senate Bill 824 (“SB 824”)—because it violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) by discriminating against Black and Latino voters.”

The motion, filed Sept. 17th, recounts how previously, “…House Bill 589 (“HB 589”), was enacted in 2013 and was struck down by the [U.S.] Fourth Circuit [Court of Appeals], which found that it intentionally discriminated against voters of color.”

“The court of appeals called it “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow,” the new motion continued, “and said it “targeted African Americans” for voter suppression “with almost surgical precision.”

It was after Republicans in the NC General assembly lost their supermajority in November 2018 that they called a special lame duck session, and hurriedly passed HB 824, establishing a voter ID law, based on passage of a constitutional amendment ratified by voters.

“The law now before the Court—SB 824—is a barely disguised duplicate of HB 589, carries the same discriminatory intent as its predecessor, and likewise fails to remedy its racially disparate impacts,” the motion continues. “It is intended, like HB 589 before it, to suppress the Black and Latino vote, just as those voters were achieving near parity with white registration and turnout rates and otherwise emerging as major political forces.”

The motion notes that Republican legislative leaders rested the Fourth Circuit ruling.

“Indeed, General Assembly leaders, including Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, and lead House sponsor David Lewis—all of whom were instrumental in enacting HB 589—never accepted the Fourth Circuit’s holding in the McCrory case and made clear their intention to work around it,” the NC NAACP motion for preliminary injunction continued.

And without missing a beat, the motion invokes the controversial mapmaking of Republican strategist Thomas Hofeller, “…who has recently gained notoriety for his work in the field of racial gerrymandering.

“In North Carolina, the General Assembly relied on Dr. Hofeller’s analysis as the basis for illegally gerrymandered House and Senate maps that a state court struck down earlier this month, “concluding that he had used racial statistics to shape his maps despite public claims to the contrary.”

“As the New York Times has reported,’ the motion continued, “…is now apparent that “more than any other state, North Carolina was shaped politically by Mr. Hofeller’s talents. A trove of files [reviewed by the paper's reporters] shows his involvement in virtually every aspect of the State Legislature’s effort to promote and defend Republican control.” And “[r]ace was [a] constant of Mr. Hofeller’s work in the state.”

“Of critical import to this case, while the evidence is still emerging, it appears likely that his use of race to shape North Carolina election laws to preserve Republican advantage also infected the General Assembly’s efforts to craft voter ID laws.”

“North Carolina cannot possibly implement SB 824 in a nondiscriminatory way in the short time the State has given itself to implement the law (and has given its voters to procure identification that meets its requirements). At minimum, a preliminary injunction should issue delaying the law’s implementation until after the March 2020 elections to prevent the unlawful disparate impact that will arise out of its hasty implementation.”

The motion concluded, “For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiffs request that this Court enter a preliminary injunction against the implementation of the provisions of SB 824 that impose voter- identification requirements, that expand the number of poll observers, and that loosen eligibility requirement for people who can challenge ballots in the March 2020 elections pending the outcome of a trial on the merits of plaintiffs’ claims.”

As of press time Monday, there was no response from the State to the NCNAACP motion for preliminary injunction.