News Abortion

Disapproval of North Carolina GOP, Governor Grows After Anti-Choice Bill Proposals

Robin Marty

As SB 353, the North Carolina motorcycle safety bill that was amended to include abortion restrictions, awaits review in the senate rules committee, Republican supporters of the bill, including Gov. Pat McCrory, are seeing increasing disapproval among both health-care organizations and voters in the state.

As SB 353, the North Carolina motorcycle safety bill that was amended to include abortion restrictions, awaits review in the senate rules committee, Republican supporters of the bill, including Gov. Pat McCrory, are seeing increasing disapproval among both health-care organizations and voters in the state.

Eighty percent of North Carolinians polled recently said they disapprove of the GOP’s move to add anti-abortion restrictions into the motorcycle safety bill. Meanwhile, the governor’s approval rating has dropped by 15 points since June, and more people now disapprove than approve of the job he is doing in office. The state legislature is seeing just as much disapproval, especially compared with Moral Mondays, the weekly protest and civil disobedience gathering at the state capitol. When asked in the same poll which they approved of more, the state assembly or Moral Monday protesters, the protesters won 47 to 41.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Obstetrical and Gynecological Society and the North Carolina Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a joint statement opposing SB 353 and HB 695, a house anti-Sharia law bill that included a version of the same abortion restrictions. “Scientific evidence should be central to the legislature’s deliberations on any women’s health care policy, especially when the measures would severely restrict access to necessary women’s health care and related lawful medical services. Passage of these bills, which are not based on science, will have a detrimental effect on the health of women in North Carolina. We strongly urge lawmakers to reject these measures,” the groups said in their statement.

This opposition has not caused Gov. McCrory to second-guess his support for SB 353. Despite his campaign promise to not sign any abortion restrictions into law, the governor has said he will not veto the bill, though he would have vetoed HB 695. McCrory told CNN Tuesday that the rules are just “legal updates” to existing regulations. When asked about his campaign promise, he said he would “absolutely” keep it; “that’s a promise kept,” he said.

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In response to the large Moral Monday protests in the state, members of the North Carolina GOP and the Moccasin Creek Minutemen helped organized a rally of their own, dubbed Thankful Tuesday. While the NAACP and other Moral Monday organizers have focused their protests on new laws that roll back rights for the poor, women, and people of color, Thankful Tuesday was meant to “thank our legislators for the hard work they’ve done,” according to North Carolina GOP Chairman Claude Pope. The rally also featured foam footballs provided by Americans for Prosperity, according to the Charlotte Observer.

The rally reportedly only attracted some 200 participants, compared to the thousands who attended the Moral Monday event 24 hours earlier. While over 100 Moral Monday protesters were arrested for trespassing in the capitol as an act of civil disobedience this week, Thankful Tuesday participants were invited to a reception hosted by Republican legislators.

“I was proud to speak at last week’s Moral Monday to the largest crowd yet. Thousands of North Carolina voters have come out to Moral Monday week after week to stand against the extreme injustice being carried out by the out of touch majority,” Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, told Rewire. “The North Carolina GOP’s decision to ignore the message of Moral Monday while embracing a handful of folks at Thankful Tuesday only proves how tone-deaf they truly are.”

News Law and Policy

North Carolina, Texas Want ‘Discriminatory’ Voter ID Laws Reinstated

Imani Gandy

Republicans in state legislatures that have passed rigid voter ID laws have claimed that such laws are necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud. GOP-led investigations, however, have not turned up any evidence of voter fraud.

Officials in North Carolina and Texas want the Supreme Court to reinstate voter ID laws after two federal appeals courts ruled they should not take effect, setting the stage for a potential Roberts Court fight over voting rights during a presidential election.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) on Monday said in a statement that the state had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay last month’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the voter ID requirement. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals released that decision in July, holding that the Republican-majority legislature had enacted the voter ID provision of HB 589 with a discriminatory intent to burden Black voters, and that it violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

McCrory said the Fourth Circuit’s ruling striking down that state’s voter ID law would create confusion during the upcoming November election.

“Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections,” McCrory said in a statement.

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“The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold our state’s law and reverse the Fourth Circuit,” he continued.

North Carolina is now represented by Paul Clement, who successfully argued Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 case that gutted the Voting Rights Act. In its emergency filing, the state asked the Supreme Court to stay the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, arguing that the 2013 GOP-backed elections law “was the product not of racial animus, but of simply policy disagreements between two political parties about what voting measures are best for North Carolina,” according to SCOTUSblog.

North Carolina will petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari in the upcoming term. In the meantime, the state awaits the Supreme Court’s ruling on its emergency request for a stay.

A spokesperson for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Tuesday that Texas would appeal the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that Texas’ voter ID law, SB 14, disproportionately burdened Black and Latino voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Writing for the Fifth Circuit majority, Judge Catharina Haynes wrote, “[t]he record shows that drafters and proponents of SB 14 were aware of the likely disproportionate effect of the law on minorities, and that they nonetheless passed the bill without adopting a number of proposed ameliorative measures that might have lessened this impact.”

“The primary concern of this court and the district court should be to ensure that SB 14’s discriminatory effect is ameliorated … in time for the November 2016 election,” Haynes continued.

In response to the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos approved a plan that would allow voters without the requisite photo identification to vote in Texas in the November election, absent the Roberts Court stepping in.

Under Ramos’ order, people can vote if they sign a declaration of citizenship and present proof of residence in Texas, such as a paycheck stub, bank statement, or utility bill, according to the Texas Tribune.

Paxton’s spokesperson would not specify whether the state would file an emergency appeal in advance of its petition for writ of certiorari. In order to reinstate the voter ID law, Texas would need to file an emergency appeal and ask the Supreme Court to stay the case, as officials in North Carolina have done.

Republicans in state legislatures that have passed rigid voter ID laws have claimed that such laws are necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud. GOP-led investigations, however, have not turned up any evidence of voter fraud. A study conducted by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt found a mere 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation out of more than 1 billion votes that were cast nationwide from 2000 through 2014.

News Law and Policy

Court Blocks North Carolina’s ‘Discriminatory’ Voter ID Law

Imani Gandy

“[T]he new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision," Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the court, describing the North Carolina GOP's voter ID law.

A unanimous panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down North Carolina’s elections law, holding that the Republican-held legislature had enacted the law with discriminatory intent to burden Black voters and that it therefore violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The ruling marks the latest defeat of voter ID laws passed by GOP-majority legislatures across the country.

“We can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent,” Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the court.

HB 589 required in-person voters to show certain types of photo ID beginning in 2016, and either curtailed or reduced registration and voting access tools that Black voters disproportionately used, including an early voting period. Black voters also disproportionately lack photo IDs.

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Republicans claimed that the law was intended to protect against voter fraud, which has proven exceedingly rare in Republican-led investigations. But voting rights advocates argue that the law was intended to disenfranchise Black and Latino voters.

The ruling marks a dramatic reversal of fortune for the U.S. Justice Department, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, and the League of Women Voters, which had asked the Fourth Circuit to review a lower court ruling against them.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder in April ruled that plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate that the law hindered Black voters’ ability to exercise political power.

The Fourth Circuit disagreed.

“In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with discriminatory intent, the court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees,” Motz wrote. “This failure of perspective led the court to ignore critical facts bearing on legislative intent, including the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina.”

The Fourth Circuit noted that the Republican-dominated legislature passed the law in 2013, immediately following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby v. Holder, which struck a key provision in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.

Section 4 is the coverage formula used to determine which states must get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice or the District Court for the District of Columbia before making any changes to election laws.

The day after the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Shelby, the Republican chairman of the Senate Rules Committee announced the North Carolina legislature’s intention to enact an “omnibus” election law, the appeals court noted. Before enacting the law, however, the Republican-dominated legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices.

After receipt of the race data, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration, all of which disproportionately burdened Black voters.

“In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its actions, the State offered only meager justifications,” Motz continued. “[T]he new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The ruling comes a day after the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and one of the primary organizers of Moral Mondays, gave a rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention that brought convention goers to their feet.

During a protest on the first day of the trial, Barber told a crowd of about 3,500 people, “this is our Selma.”

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