North Carolina Republicans, engaged in an extraordinary months-long attack on ordinary North Carolinians, turned their attention yesterday to trying to cover their tracks and hold themselves less accountable to those to whom they done the most damage. How? By teeing up the most sweeping voter suppression bill in the country.
Two years ago, Republicans in the state legislature tried to pass a Voter ID law to restrict the franchise. But then governor Bev Perdue, a Democrat, vetoed that bill. Republicans also had to tread at least a little lightly, lest their proposals trigger scrutiny under the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Since then, the right-wing majority on the Court has, of course, gutted those provisions. And with a Republican now in the governor's mansion in Raleigh, the gloves are off.
Among the more noteworthy provisions in the new bill, which will likely be approved today on its way to the governor's signature:
With 40 of North Carolina's 100 counties covered under the now defunct Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the above measures could not have gone into effect in those counties without prior Department of Justice approval. But absent Section 4, Republicans in North Carolina, as elsewhere, have carte blanche to do that which the Supreme Court's right-wing majority insisted was no longer a problem in America -- pass obviously racially discriminatory voting restrictions.
Voting integrity, savings, transparency and free speech -- these are the nonsense arguments GOP lawmakers are using to rationalize voter suppression. Like everything else this legislative session, NC Republicans are simply making stuff up to justify their extreme priorities. They argued that rejecting Medicaid expansion was necessary for reasons of fiscal prudence. But Medicaid expansion would have saved the state money -- in addition to lives -- and the GOP's budget costs it more. They rammed through a bill restricting women's access to legal, safe abortions in the name of women's health, when the legislation is more likely to undermine it. They just passed a tax package that really only benefits the very wealthy and corporations, insisting for months that everyone would benefit until their own researchers said -- oops -- only the very wealthy and corporations would meaningfully benefit.
Governor McCrory -- whose been very much a follower, not a leader in this process -- can't even keep his petty lies straight. He recently insisted that he'd mingled among the Moral Monday protesters (and been "cussed at," heaven forfend). When it was pointed out that there was not a single extant photo of what would obviously have been a highly photo-worthy event, his office later released a statement saying, no, no, he meant merely that when he walks from the governor's mansion to the state legislature, he encounters people who disagree with him. Whatever gets you through the day, Governor.
In order to minimize the political consequences of enacting a broadly unpopular agenda North Carolina Republicans have reached a new low -- restrict the franchise, particularly to suppress minority voting. All in the name of freedom and democracy, of course.
(NC Policy Watch, a progressive think tank, is an invaluable source of information and analysis on North Carolina politics).
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