Voter Suppression Press Release

VOTER SUPPRESSION LAW INVALIDATED BALLOTS IN JACKSON COUNTY

SYLVA – Last week, voters attempting to participate in this year’s North Carolina primary election confronted long lines and confusion at the polls as a consequence of the state’s monster voter suppression law, H.B. 589. Jackson County was not different with reports of unprecedented long lines at the Cullowhee precinct as voters waited to cast a ballot within the shortened period.

The retracted span of early voting was just one of several measures affecting voter’s access to the ballot. H.B. 589 also eliminated same-day registration, banned the counting of ballots cast out of precinct, cut a successful preregistration program for 16 and 17 year olds and instituted a strict photo ID requirement. Research reveals that these measures are particularly burdensome on African Americans, Latinos, students, seniors and people living in poverty.

The North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP filed a lawsuit to challenge these provisions under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th Amendments of the United States Constitution in 2013, immediately after the bill became law. A ruling is still pending from the U.S. Federal District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

Of deep concern to the NAACP and Democracy North Carolina, nonpartisan advocacy organizations for the protection of the right vote, are 14 ballots that were rejected by the Jackson County Board of Elections today on account of insufficient id provided by voters.

“These ballots would most likely have been counted in the state primary had H.B. 589 not come into effect,” said Dr. Enrique Gomez, President of the Jackson County branch of the NAACP.“If this aspect of the law is not overturned by the courts, the NAACP is concerned that the number of rejected ballots will be high at the November general election adding to the uncertainty and confusion about the outcome of these elections in addition to violating people’s voting rights under the US Constitution,” said Gomez.

H.B. 589 passed in 2013, but it was not until last week that we saw the first election that the photo ID provision was in full effect due to a delayed rollout. Knowing the law in its original form would not withstand legal scrutiny, the legislature modified the law to allow voters with certain “reasonable impediments” – such as lack of transportation or a lost or stolen ID – to cast a provisional ballot if they were unable to attain the required ID before Election Day.

“We are deeply concerned that misinformation about this aspect of the law left many voters confused and hence chose not to participate in this election,” Gomez said. “We applaud the Jackson County Board of Elections for their consideration and inclusion of two provisional ballots that included reasonable impediment statements in them, but there are many that were not. We are thus also concerned that these voters left the polling places without knowing what to do to make sure that their vote counted.”

“We are seeing in North Carolina the exact type of electoral chaos that happens when politicians manipulate the voting system for their own gain,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP last week. “Our leaders should be in the business of making it easier to vote, not harder. The right to vote should be constitutional, not confusing.”

“The confusion faced by voters attempting to cast a ballot yesterday (Tuesday of last week)– in large part due to misinformation from poll workers – is exactly why we call this a monster voter suppression law: it effects each step of the voting process, making it harder and more confusing along the way,” said Penda D. Hair, co-director of Advancement Project. A national civil rights organization, Advancement Project represents the NC NAACP and individual plaintiffs in their legal challenge to H.B. 589.

Two provisions of H.B. 589 – the ban on the counting of out-of-precinct provisions ballots and the elimination of same-day registration – are not currently in effect due to a ruling from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last year. The Jackson County Board of Elections has followed the ruling of this court and counted such ballots in the last elections. Nonetheless, confusion around the law left many voters turned away from polling places across the state.

The North Carolina Election Protection hotline had to add an extra line to accommodate the influx of calls from voters facing barriers.

“The hurdles posed to voters yesterday are unacceptable in a democracy,” said Rev. Barber. “Elections should be free, fair and accessible to all eligible voters. Our work continues until that is a reality in North Carolina. We will carry on our efforts in the courts, in the streets and at the ballot box to tear down the barriers that stand in the way of our fundamental right to vote.”

The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.

NAACP Branch 54AB ̣• PO Box 788 Sylva, NC 28779 jacksonncnaacp.org

CONTACT: Enrique Gomez President,

Jackson County NC NAACP at

enrique.a.gomez@gmail.com or 8282698176,

Dan Kowal, Communications and Publicity

Chair, Jackson County NC NAACP at sanmardan@yahoo.com