The first week of returns for North Carolina show that the conflict over voter suppression rages on.
In North Carolina, November 5 will be almost as important as November 8. On Saturday, the 17-day window for early voting closes. Early voting in the state has so far outpaced early voting in 2012 and 2008, and the final tallies of early votes could portend a winner well before election night. The math is simple: If overall early turnout numbers increase over 2012 and 2008, and Clinton maintains a larger lead than Obama’s 56 percent in 2012 among early voters, North Carolina will be a tough state for Democrats to lose come election day.
Despite the fact that early-voting appears to be on pace to set turnout records, there is evidence that one outcome Democrats feared—and that Republicans have engineered—might be coming to pass. After a years-long fight over voting rights, and last-minute political maneuvering by several counties, the North Carolina data group insightus reports that black turnout in the first week of early voting has been depressed relative to 2012, though it has begun to swing upward in the second week. Any slippage among this group could indicate that the historic gains in black turnout in 2008 and 2012 are in danger.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the Civil Rights Movement on August 6, 1965, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections. Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Act secured voting rights for racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Act is considered to be the most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted in the country.
The Act contains numerous provisions that regulate election administration. The Act’s “general provisions” provide nationwide protections for voting rights. Section 2 is a general provision that prohibits every state and local government from imposing any voting law that results in discrimination against racial or language minorities. Other general provisions specifically outlaw literacy tests and similar devices that were historically used to disenfranchise racial minorities.
The Act also contains “special provisions” that apply to only certain jurisdictions. A core special provision is the Section 5 preclearance requirement, which prohibits certain jurisdictions from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving preapproval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C. that the change does not discriminate against protected minorities. Another special provision requires jurisdictions containing significant language minority populations to provide bilingual ballots and other election materials.