For Immediate Release
Shin Inouye, Inouye@civilrights.org
98 State and National Groups Urge Head of North Carolina Elections to Prevent Voting Discrimination and Disruption
WASHINGTON - Amid threats of Election Day intimidation, 11 North Carolina organizations are joining 87 national civil rights and voting rights groups to urge Kim Westbrook Strach, Executive Director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, to create plans to prevent voting discrimination in advance of the first presidential election in 50 years without a fully operable Voting Rights Act.
In a letter sent to Ms. Strach, the groups cite their concern with the loss of Section 5 of the VRA, writing “Since Congress has failed to pass a bill to restore the VRA, which has resulted in DOJ’s lacking authority over voting changes in places that Congress determined in 2006 should continue to have federal oversight, we are extremely concerned that there will be widespread voter discrimination in the upcoming presidential election.”
To blunt the impact of voting discrimination, these organizations are engaging in a massive litigation effort and an election protection campaign to protect voters at the polls but voters have very little protection from local election changes, the misapplication and misunderstanding of new voting restrictions by poll workers, or threats of intimidation from polling place vigilantes.
“The loss of Section 5 and the most racially bigoted presidential campaign in generations has created a perfect storm for voter intimidation and voter discrimination,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Ms. Strach must address these unprecedented threats head on by creating and publicizing a clear plan to prevent intimidation and discrimination, and to make it unequivocally clear that this election will be safe, fair, and free from intimidation, violence, and discrimination.”
The full letter is below and linked here.
October 24, 2016
North Carolina State Board of Elections
Kim Westbrook Strach, Executive Director
441 North Harrington St
Raleigh, NC 27603
Dear Executive Director Westbrook Strach:
On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and the 98 undersigned organizations, we write to express our grave concern over the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). We urge you to develop a plan to ensure that no one in North Carolina is disenfranchised in the upcoming election.
As you know, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 protected the voting rights of racial and ethnic minorities in several states and local jurisdictions where they had been historically discriminated against in voting. These jurisdictions were covered by Section 5 of the Act, which required the Department of Justice (DOJ) to approve any changes to voting in specific states and localities. However, in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Shelby County v. Holder negated the pre-clearance requirement and the DOJ’s authority to send observers to covered jurisdictions. Following Shelby, numerous states have passed voting laws, which several federal courts agree have a disparate impact on people of color and language minorities, including the North Carolina law.
And while some courts have taken action to block discriminatory laws in states like North Carolina and Texas, these decisions came only after years of costly litigation during which impacted citizens were blocked from voting in the 2014 elections and this year’s primaries. Meanwhile, there is no way of knowing how many potentially discriminatory voting changes are being made by cities, counties, school boards, water boards and other local jurisdictions that were previously required to be precleared. According to “Democracy Diminished,” a report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), “more than 85% of preclearance work previously done under Section 5 was at the local level.”
Prior to Shelby, 40 counties in North Carolina were covered under the Section 5 preclearance requirement. The day after the Shelby decision, the Speaker of the North Carolina House introduced H.B. 589, one of the most restrictive pieces of election legislation in the country. This bill included a strict ID requirement as well as other voting restrictions, including shortening the early voting period, eliminating same-day registration, prohibiting the counting of out-of-precinct provisional ballots, and eliminating a pre-registration program for 16- and 17-year olds. Evidence shows that in the 2012 presidential election, nearly 900,000 votes were cast during the seven days of the early voting period that the law eliminated; over 90,000 voters used same-day registration; and more 7,000 voters cast their ballots out-of-precinct. Fortunately, in 2016, the 4th Circuit held that North Carolina’s massive bundle of voting restrictions, passed within weeks of the Shelby decision, targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision,” and that the state’s laws would suppress turnout of the elderly, people with disabilities, and students. 
Since Congress has failed to pass a bill to restore the VRA, which has resulted in DOJ’s lacking authority over voting changes in places that Congress determined in 2006 should continue to have federal oversight, we are extremely concerned that there will be widespread voter discrimination in the upcoming presidential election. This is exacerbated by the fact that there will be no DOJ observers holding jurisdictions accountable. In the 2012 general election, the Department of Justice sent 780 federal observers to 51 jurisdictions in 23 states. Following the Shelby decision, DOJ has said it will not deploy election observers in 2016. The potentially detrimental effect of the absence of this critical voter protection tool cannot be overstated.
Given the many recent examples of post-Shelby voting discrimination, we urge you to be vigilant regarding potential voter disenfranchisement in North Carolina this November.
AAUW of North Carolina
ACLU of North Carolina
League of Women Voters of North Carolina
NC State AFL-CIO
North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Educational Fund, Inc.
North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Randolph Institute, Inc.
North Carolina State Conference NAACP
Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Urban League of Central Carolinas
Winston-Salem Urban League
9to5, National Association of Working Women
A. PHILIP RANDOLPH INSTITUTE
African American Ministers In Action (AAMIA)
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
American Federation of Teachers
American Jewish Committee (AJC)
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - AAJC
Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote)
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Bend the Arc Jewish Action
Black Women's Roundtable
Black Youth Vote!
Brennan Center for Justice
Campaign Legal Center
Center for Women Policy Studies
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
Fair Elections Legal Network
Franciscan Action Network
Friends of the Earth - United States
Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights First
Institute for Science and Human Values
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jobs With Justice
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
League of Women Voters of the United States
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
NAACP-National Voter Fund
NALEO Educational Fund
National Action Network's Washington Bureau
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO)
National Association of Social Workers
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
National Congress of American Indians
National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
National Education Association
National Federation of Filipino American Associations
National LGBTQ Task Force
National Urban League
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates
OWL-The Voice of Women 40+
People For the American Way Foundation
Rock the Vote
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF)
Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Southern Poverty Law Center
The Center for Popular Democracy
The Voter Participation Center
The Voting Rights Institute
U.S. Women and Cuba Collaboration
Union for Reform Judaism
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
US Human Rights Network
Voting Rights Forward
Women's Research & Education Institute
World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Young People For, a program of the People For the American Way Foundation
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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. Through advocacy and outreach to targeted constituencies, The Leadership Conference works toward the goal of a more open and just society – an America as good as its ideals.
The Leadership Conference is a 501(c)(4) organization that engages in legislative advocacy. It was founded in 1950 and has coordinated national lobbying efforts on behalf of every major civil rights law since 1957.