Three women, NAACP file lawsuit over voter I.D.

Aug. 13, 2013 @ 02:37 PM

Rosanell Eaton was one of the first African-Americans to vote in the 1940s in Franklin County, and she spent much of her life working at the polls and serving as a precinct judge.

Eaton, 92, and the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP, have filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, and the director, the chairman and members of the North Carolina Board of Elections, challenging House Bill 589.

On Monday, McCrory signed the bill, which will require all voters to have identification and will cut early voting hours and eliminate same-day registration.

“This bill is not about voter I.D.,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP during a press conference Tuesday morning in Durham. “It is 57 pages of regressive unconstitutional acts to rig and manipulate elections through voter suppression.”

The lawsuit claims that the voter identification requirements, eliminating same-day registration, limiting the number of early voting days, prohibiting the counting of provisional ballots by voters who vote in the wrong precinct and expanding the number of people who can challenge ballots injures African-American voters in North Carolina.

The lawsuit will require that the plaintiffs prove that the new laws passed by the Republicans legislators and signed by the Republican governor violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership in one of the language minority groups.

Eaton, who has been a member of the NAACP for more than 60 years, said that the legislators who passed the new laws are making it more difficult to vote instead of trying to make it easier.

“Pray that the Lord will soften their hearts, because their hearts are hard,” Eaton said.

The new law reduces the number of early voting days by a week and eliminates Sundays as an early voting day.

“If you stop the privilege of Sunday voting, it would decrease the amount,” Eaton said. “They know that. They are just evil, and that is wrong, disgraceful, disgusting, and it needs to be a change in the way that we are going.”

The lawsuit states that during the 2012 election cycle, 70 percent of African-Americans who voted did so through early voting opportunities.

“Same-day registration and early voting have been highly successful programs utilized by large portions of the electorate,” the lawsuits states. “Yet nowhere in the legislative history or record did legislators offer a credible, non-discriminatory reason for eliminating these popular programs.”

Carolyn Q. Coleman, who will join Eaton as one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said that she lived in Mississippi and Alabama before moving to North Carolina.

“I feel like I’m reliving my life,” Coleman said. “All of the things I left in Mississippi and Alabama, they are back again. This whole notion of voter I.D. just takes us back to the days of poll tax, where people who don’t have money can hardly pay for rent or food will now have to pay $10 to get a state I.D.”

Mary Perry, 83, who worked for 18 years at the General Assembly, also will be a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“We’ve been in bondage long enough,” she said. “We’re not going to have it. We’re going to fight, fight, fight.”

The lawsuit asks that the Court declare that the challenged provisions of H.B. 589 violate the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. It asks that the defendants be enjoined from implementing or enforcing the provisions of H.B. 859 that require voter identification, eliminate same day voter registration, reduce the number of early voting days, prohibit out-of-precinct voting and expanding the number of poll observers or the scope of individuals who may issue voter challenges.

The Advancement Project in Washington, D.C., Adam Stein and Irving Joyner of North Carolina and the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP of Washington, D.C. will serve as attorneys for the plaintiffs.

“We believe it is an extremely strong case, and we believe we will be able to stop this law, this pernicious law, from being implemented in the state of North Carolina,” said Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project.

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. In addition to McCrory, the lawsuit names the executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections, Kim Westbrook Strach, the chairman of the N.C. Board of Elections, Joshua B. Howard, and other members of the Board of Elections, Rhonda K. Amoroso, Joshua D. Malcolm, Paul J. Foley and Maja Kricker.