by Gene R. Nichol, the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Poverty, Work & Opportunity, UNC School of Law
Two weeks ago, federal district court judge Thomas Schroeder issued a 485- page opinion upholding North Carolina’s “monster” voter ID law, HB 589. It apparently takes more than a few pages to explain the acceptability of patent voter suppression. A lot of folks in the Tar Heel State were outraged. A lot cheered. None were surprised. The George W. Bush appointee had carried out his assignment with thoroughness, if not enthusiasm.
Schroeder’s ruling upheld sweeping changes to North Carolina voting practices. Voters now have to present one of six forms of photo identification – pointedly excluding state university IDs – to secure a ballot. The statute also notably curbed early voting, prohibited same day registration, banned out of precinct voting, and ended an early registration program for first time voters. Leaders of the General Assembly had openly expressed their delight with the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County case. Now, they rejoiced, the full Monty was possible. They wouldn’t fumble this chance.
The State Board of Elections identified a whopping two instances of “possible” voter impersonation in the previous fourteen year period. We could all understand the urgency. Rick Hasen deemed North Carolina’s new voting law “the worst seen in the United States” in a half-century. Over two hundred thousand Tar Heels were estimated to lack the newly-demanded credential. The newspapers filled with stories of poor, elderly, sick, disabled and disadvantaged citizens struggling to satisfy the dishonest requirement. Schroeder was unmoved. You know, there’s just gonna be some hardship and exclusion when it comes to voting. It’s not as if we’re talking about something important – like a concealed carry permit.