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Voting Rights Primer: The Fight Over The NC GOP’s Anti-Democratic Moves Escalates

Voting rights primer
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August 20, 2018 3:37 p.m.

North Carolina continues to be a hotbed for battles over the GOP legislature’s anti-voting rights moves. Republican lawmakers there had sought to remove from November’s ballot the party ID of a GOP candidate for the state’s Supreme Court out of fear that the candidate — who switched parties weeks before registering for the race — would draw votes away from the GOP incumbent on the court. That move was quickly challenged by the candidate, Chris Anglin, and a court last Monday blocked the law stripping him of his party affiliation.

The party ID lawsuit is not the only voting rights issue fueling a clash between North Carolina Republicans and the state’s courts. The wording that the legislature chose for two November ballot initiatives — wording that their critics said was intentionally misleading — has also been challenged in court. Both ballot initiatives seek to take power away from the state’s governor, currently a Democrat, and target his ability to name commissioners on state boards and appoint judges. Last week, North Carolina’s Republican Party Chairman ratcheted up the tension over the legal showdown by suggesting that judges should be impeached if they rule against the GOP legislature in the lawsuits.

A former member of President Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission suffered a court loss last week, when a federal judge let a lawsuit proceed against him and his group, which seeks more aggressive voter roll purges. The lawsuit alleges that J. Christian Adams and his group Public Interest Legal Foundation engaged in voter intimidation by publishing two reports, known as Alien Invasion and Alien Invasion II, claiming to document thousands of non-citizens on Virginia’s voter rolls. A handful of those named in the reports’ materials — which also included some of their addresses and other private information — sued because they are in fact citizens, and accused Adams and PILF of defamation. A federal judge in Virginia last week denied the defendants’ request to throw out the lawsuit.

That wasn’t the only court victory voting rights advocates secured last week. A federal judge in New Hampshire last week struck down a law passed by the state’s Republicans that permitted election officials to throw out absentee ballots if they believed the signatures on the ballots did not match the signatures on the state’s records. U.S. District Judge Landya McCafferty ruled that the law was a constitutional violation.

The fight is just beginning, however, in Georgia over a county elections board’s proposal to shutter seven out of the county’s nine polling places. The population of the county, Randolph County, is more than 61 percent of black, and the move comes after Democrats nominated a black woman as their gubernatorial candidate. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent the elections board a letter Sunday threatening to sue if it moved forward with the polling place closings.

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