January 8, 2020/Press

Senator Tillis’ Voting Rights Legacy: Part of a “Sordid History” of Voter Suppression

A federal judge last week struck down a Republican voter suppression law, finding it was “motivated, at least in part, by racially discriminatory intent” and colored by a “sordid history of racial discrimination and voter suppression” – a “sordid history” Thom Tillis has had a heavy hand in.

In 2013, then-Speaker of the House Tillis passed one of the most restrictive voter suppression laws in the country that attempted to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” In the order last week, the federal judge even expressed that the voter ID law “was similar to a 2013 law that a federal appeals court struck down in 2016.”

In 2016, a federal judge ruled Senator Tillis’ voter suppression bill unconstitutional, finding that it tried to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” The law was a “smoking gun” that proved Senator Tillis and North Carolina Republicans tried to suppress African-American voters to rig North Carolina’s elections and hold onto power.

Senator Tillis last year said, “If I could wave a wand and do everything we did in North Carolina up in D.C., we’d be even better off.” But a look at recent events sparked by his record – starting with an education legacy that failed students and a voter suppression record targeting African-Americans – reveals North Carolina is still picking up the pieces from his failed leadership.

Associated Press: “Sordid history” cited as judge blocks NC’s voter ID law
By Martha Waggoner
December 31, 2019

Key Points:

  • The federal judge who blocked the newest version of North Carolina’s voter identification law cited the state’s “sordid history of racial discrimination and voter suppression” as she ordered officials not to enforce the law in 2020.
  • U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs’ decision was released Tuesday and prevents North Carolina from requiring voters to provide identification starting in 2020.
  • The federal court advised last week that Biggs would formally block the photo ID requirement until a lawsuit filed by state NAACP and others is resolved. Her decision provided insight into why she blocked the law, which she said was similar to a 2013 law that a federal appeals court struck down in 2016.
  • That court said the photo ID and other voter restrictions were approved with intentional racial discrimination in mind, and Biggs said the newest version of the law was no different in that respect.
  • “North Carolina has a sordid history of racial discrimination and voter suppression stretching back to the time of slavery, through the era of Jim Crow, and, crucially, continuing up to the present day,” Biggs wrote.
  • Legislators received a breakdown of voter behavior by race before passing the 2016 law and used that data to target African American voters, the court wrote in striking down that law.
  • But the same key lawmakers championed both bills, Biggs wrote. “ … they need not had racial data in hand to still have it in mind,” the ruling says.
  • The legislative history of the bill, including statements from its supporters, show that “rather than trying to cleanse the discriminatory taint” imbued in the previous voter ID law, lawmakers tried to circumvent state and federal courts, she wrote.

Washington Post: The ‘smoking gun’ proving North Carolina Republicans tried to disenfranchise black voters
By Christopher Ingraham
July 29, 2016

Key Points:

  • Today, a federal court struck down North Carolina’s voter-ID law, one of the strictest in the nation. In addition to requiring residents to show identification before they can cast a ballot, the law also eliminated same-day voter registration, eliminated seven days of early voting and put an end to out-of-precinct voting. The federal court ruling reinstates these provisions, for now.
  • The federal court in Richmond found that the primary purpose of North Carolina’s wasn’t to stop voter fraud, but rather to disenfranchise minority voters. The judges found that the provisions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
  • Most strikingly, the judges point to a “smoking gun” in North Carolina’s justification for the law, proving discriminatory intent. The state argued in court that “counties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black” and “disproportionately Democratic,” and said it did away with Sunday voting as a result.
  • “Thus, in what comes as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times, the State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race — specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise,” the judges write in their decision.
  • This is about as clear-cut an indictment of the discriminatory underpinnings of voter-ID laws as you’ll find anywhere. Studies have already shown a significant link between support for voter ID and racial discrimination, among both lawmakers and white voters in general.