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  • Vincent Spaulding

OPINION: Restrictive Voter Registration and Electoral Rules (Second Coming)

The state of North Carolina’s Republican-dominated legislature, as the party in power, has introduced a voter ID bill requiring voters to show a photo ID when they go to the polls in 2016. They have also proposed to shorten early voting, abolish Sunday voting, and end same day registration. These moves are strongly opposed by Democrats (now the party of Lincoln, if he was still living today) who say that the photo ID law, and other election machinery changes, more favorable to the Republicans, would create longer lines at the polls, make it harder for elderly, African-Americans and some students to vote, and would unconstitutionally create different categories of voters. Another North Carolina state-proposed bill, by a Republican State Senator, will require people convicted of felonies, who have paid their debt to society, to no longer automatically get back the right to vote. The bill would require people convicted of felony crimes to wait five years after the completion of their sentence, probation or parole, before they could attempt to re-register to vote.

These proposed changes to the North Carolina voting laws seem to be the second coming of post-Reconstruction, when throughout the South, state legislatures passed laws to make voter registration and electoral rules more restrictive, resulting in decreased political participation by most blacks and many poor whites. These laws reversed black voting rights promised by the 14th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution. During this period of Southern states reversing black voting rights, in the state of North Carolina, the Democratic-controlled legislature saw the chance to propose so-called literacy tests for black voters. This was done as a way to circumvent the federal constitution and cut blacks from voting. The foregoing referendum passed in August 1900.

Because of the foregoing types of laws, George Henry White, the last Southern black who served in Congress from 1897 to 1901, could not get re-elected and decided in 1901 not to run for a 3rd term, leaving Congress with an all white group of Congressmen. It was not until 1929 that another black person was elected to the US Congress, Oscar De Priest from Chicago, who ran as a Republican. And it was not until 1992 that another black person from the state of NC was elected to the US Congress, Eva M. Clayton, who ran as a Democrat. It has been stated by many that the proposed changes to the North Carolina election laws is similar to election laws passed in NC at the turn of the past century that resulted in no black legislators being elected to the NC General Assembly until 1969.

In summation, this writer feels that the current voting rights bills before the North Carolina legislature are present day attempts to disenfranchise the voting rights of the elderly, African-Americans, people with felony convictions, and some students right to vote, and will have a dramatic impact on minority and student voting power. The current day GOP dominated lawmakers, no longer the party of Lincoln and not sympathetic to the needs of the poor or disenfranchised, are interested in taking action to maintaining the political strength of Republicans and their conservative ideology. Because of the foregoing, we are seeing the second coming of political actions that are dimly remembered today as “that time after Reconstruction and before the civil rights movement”.

Regarding Congressman White, he refused to believe that his home state of North Carolina would allow the travesty of justice created by the so-called literacy tests for black voters. Because of the foregoing GHW decided to move from the state and to pursue opportunities where he could have an even chance to be successful in life if given an even opportunity. He founded the town of Whitesboro, NJ.

Submitted by: Vincent M. Spaulding, Cary, NC, May 13, 2013

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