Source: Editorial Board
Three recent, unprecedented decisions by the right-wing controlled North Carolina Supreme Court have set voting rights back decades and once again legalized extreme partisan gerrymandering in our state.
Despite rulings only a few months ago by the then Democratic-controlled state Supreme Court, the new 5-2 right-wing court made the extremely rare – but not at all unexpected – decision to re-decide cases on voter ID, voting rights for people with felonies and redistricting.
Looking at the voter ID law, a 2018 constitutional amendment was challenged and the state Supreme Court, with a 4-3 Democratic majority, heard the case and determined that it had an unconstitutional, direct and incomparable impact on Black voters. The new state Supreme Court has now re-decided the case and said that the previous court that ruled just a few months ago got it wrong.
Instead of working toward a better North Carolina for everyone, Republican politicians and the state Supreme Court are now continuing their crusade against Black, Brown and young voters by requiring an ID to vote – despite the requirement being both unconstitutional and racist. North Carolina Republicans and their right-wing pals on the Supreme Court don’t care about any of that, obviously. Their biggest concern is making sure that the state’s most vulnerable populations don’t get to have their say in our democracy.
If you want to vote in municipal elections this fall you will now need an ID to vote, according to NC Board of Elections.
In addition to ruling in favor of a racist voter ID law, the Supreme Court also decided to take away voting rights from convicted felons. A law requiring people with felony convictions to complete their entire sentences – both prison and any post-release requirements – before having their voting rights restored was ruled constitutional. The state Supreme Court has now reversed that decision. Anyone who has been convicted of a felony cannot be on parole or probation – or in the process of paying off fines – if they want to vote. Black North Carolinians are arrested, convicted and imprisoned at far higher rates than whites, meaning that felony disenfranchisement is just another way for Republicans to disproportionately target Black voters.
Perhaps the most disastrous ruling North Carolina’s MAGA Supreme Court justices just made is the one that reverses the previous court’s ruling on the NCGOP’s extreme partisan gerrymandering.
Simply put, this decision is a direct assault on our democracy and the power (supposedly) given to North Carolina’s residents. Voters are the ones who are supposed to choose political leaders, not the other way around. Because of the state Supreme Court’s ruling, Republicans in the legislature will be able to further their extreme partisan gerrymandering and attempt to silence the voices of millions of voters, including many Black and Brown voters.
It’s not a mystery as to why Republicans in North Carolina – and plenty of other states – find it necessary to institute extreme partisan gerrymandering. Republicans know that their policies are cruel and unpopular and that if they truly left it up to the voters, they would win far fewer elections and there would be far less extreme legislation getting passed. What the NCGOP and the state Supreme Court are doing is an unconstitutional, undemocratic and truly embarrassing display of partisanship. If Republicans had the support of the majority then they would have no need to ignore the state Constitution and undermine our democracy in order to keep their grip on power in Raleigh.
The people of North Carolina deserve an impartial and honest judiciary. What we have now is the opposite. Our Supreme Court has destroyed its reputation and voters’ faith in our democracy – and it was all done just to feed power-hungry Republicans in the General Assembly.
North Carolina is strongest when everyone has a say in decisions that impact their lives and every North Carolinian deserves the right to choose their elected leaders in an honest and fair way. Our state has a long way to go and an extremely tough fight ahead.