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North Carolina State University students wait in line to vote in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images )

North Carolina State University students wait in line to vote in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images )

Reading About Nation's Racist History Has Made This Republican Realize Ditching Voter ID Laws 'Simply the Right Thing to Do'

Former state Supreme Court justice Bob Orr has had a change of heart thanks to Ron Chernow's biography Grant

Andrea Germanos

Amid ongoing efforts to restrict access to the polls, Republican Bob Orr, a former North Carolina Supreme Court justice, has announced his change of heart on voter ID laws.

Once a supporter of the voter-suppressing measure, he says he now believes they should be shelved—a recent reversal he says is thanks to reading Grant, Ron Chernow's biography of Ulysses S. Grant.

His op-ed published Wednesday at The Charlotte Observer comes as North Carolina Republicans propose putting a voter ID requirement into the state constitution.

Orr writes that in contrast to the view of Reconstruction that he and other southerners were taught in history books, "Chernow points out that while ex-Confederates were resentful over losing the war and their 'property' in the form of slaves, the real stick in their craw was that blacks now had the right to vote."

The biography, he adds, "traces the horror and violence that descended upon blacks in the South attempting to participate in the most basic of democratic institutions—the right to vote." He references the "burning, lynching, and terror" white supremacists subjected blacks to—atrocities replaced by "a new wave of repression...Jim Crow laws."

"Is it any wonder that they are genuinely concerned that a voter ID requirement is just one more in a long line of measures to limit their right to vote?" he asks.

He concludes by suggesting a voter ID law "isn't all that bad, but I'm willing to say today after reading Chernow's Grant: Let's put this proposal on the shelf as simply the right thing to do."

According to Ari Berman, senior writer at Mother Jones and a reporting fellow at The Nation Institute, voter ID laws are among the "many voter suppression tactics we're seeing."

In his interview Wednesday with Democracy Now! in which he discussed the U.S. Supreme Court's decision this week to uphold Ohio's process for purging voters from the rolls, Berman said he feared "that history is repeating itself."

Fifty-five years after the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Berman said "we have a Supreme Court, we have a Republican Party, that is undermining that most fundamental right, that is finding new ways to try to disenfranchise people, whether it's voter ID laws or voter purging or cutting back on the amount of time that people have to vote."

Watch the full segment with Berman:


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