NCSBE policy using bounced mail to remove people from voter list should be revised
Republican legislators in North Carolina have enacted a wave of policy measures since attaining a supermajority that cut corporate tax rates, denied Medicaid expansion, stagnated teacher pay, and jeopardized clean air and water through regulatory reform. Yet no issue has haunted Republican politicians more so than the specter of voter fraud.
Professing a desire to guard democracy in the state, Republican politicians have expressed an increasing amount of alarm at the threat of voter fraud. Of course, it is far more likely that politicians elected in a Tea Party backlash to the first Black president are troubled by the new demographic realities of a polarized purple state. To maintain power, they have erected a series of barriers to voting during their tenure that disproportionately affect black, latinx, and college-age voters of all racial demographics, all of whom are more likely to vote Democrat.
After the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, North Carolina was limited in its ability to intentionally disfranchise its people. Five years ago, however, Shelby County v. Holder gutted two sections of the Voting Rights Act that dealt with states’ (mostly in the South with long histories of voter disfranchisement in service of white supremacy) legal mandate to get advance approval before they changed any law that dealt with elections. North Carolina was one of those states. With that provision now gone, North Carolina Republicans swiftly passed a controversial voter ID law and maintained that voter ID was an important requirement for election integrity. However, according to the ACLU, millions of Americans lack ID; obtaining ID with an updated address costs money, a significant expense for lower-income Americans who move frequently. Minority voters lack ID in greater rates and states often exclude forms such as student ID cards. North Carolina, for example, prohibited public assistance IDs and state employee ID cards, types of ID disproportionately held by Black voters. Finally, voter ID laws are enforced along racial lines. A study found that minority voters are more often questioned about their ID. (ACLU Fact Sheet, retrieved 3/8/18)
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court eventually struck down the North Carolina legislation. Noting that North Carolina did not provide any evidence of voter fraud, the court declared that the law was enacted with the intent to discriminate against black voters. In 2015, the law was amended to provide a way for people to vote without ID.
North Carolina Republicans, facing a contest in every legislative seat in the fall of 2018 and perhaps anticipating a reckoning, have recently proposed putting up voter ID for a constitutional amendment. Republican Representative Bob Steinburg recently stated that voter ID is “extremely popular” in North Carolina and is something that “transcends race.” Acknowledging that the courts struck down voter ID, he countered, “if we could show the court that 70 or 75 percent of the voters were in favor of voter ID” it would be very difficult for judges to circumvent that or strike it down. Yet Steinburg seems to be missing that the original point of the Voting Rights Act was to protect minority voters from the unjust laws of the white majority in the South. The law exists the stave off the oppression of the majority. Steinburg and the rest of North Carolina Republicans’ motivations are clear: consolidate power through recent loopholes in the Voting Rights Act by sacrificing democracy in the state.
Yet Voter ID is just one mechanism used to purge people from the voter rolls.
The board of elections also removes voters’ whose addresses are not up to date by sending out cards. If the North Carolina State Board of Elections sends a voter registration card to an address and it bounces back, the voter is then purged from the rolls.
Some legislators and candidates, both Republican and Democrat, whose names are listed below, might want to take heed of this mechanism of enforcement, as their mail bounced back after efforts to reach them. If mail bounces back for the lawmakers of the state, perhaps legislators should consider less punitive and more expansive visions of voting justice in North Carolina.
We mailed two letters to lawmakers, once in May and again in February as lawmakers and candidates filed for office. In February we included anyone who filed for office in our list at the address they were filing from, the following folks had mail bounce back:
Bob Rucho (R) - Candidate for Senate District 34
Bill Brisson (R-HD22)
Justin Burr (R-HD67)
Kevin Corbin (R-HD120)
Warren Daniel (R-SD46)
Rodney Moore (D-HD99)
David Rogers (R-HD112)
Lee Zachary (R-HD73)
Chance Harris (D) - Candidate for House District 100
Nathan West (R) - Candidate for House District 115
Jerry Langley (D) - Candidate for House District 79