Rev. Dr. Barber: “The Claims of Fraud Were Fraudulent Themselves”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             

January 27, 2016                                              

CONTACT: Victoria Wenger, 603-686-1647, vwenger@advancementproject.org

                       

Rev. Dr. Barber: “The Claims of Fraud Were Fraudulent Themselves”

Legal Challenge to NC Photo ID Law Takes Aim at Myth of Voter Fraud

 

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – In a case that highlights the onerous burdens imposed by North Carolina’s restrictive photo ID provision, day three of the federal trial challenging the measure commenced today. During today’s testimony, witnesses described both the impracticality of voter fraud and how the photo ID provision makes it hard for persons who are homeless, persons with low literacy, non-native English speakers and voters of color to participate in our nation’s democracy.

Dr. Lorraine Minnite, a professor of political science at Rutgers University-Camden and the nation’s foremost expert on voter fraud, opened trial with expert testimony on the scarcity of alleged voter fraud nationally and in North Carolina.

“Voter fraud is exceedingly rare,” Dr. Minnite said. “Even if you were motivated to influence the outcome of an election, voter impersonation is not a rational, reasonable thing for someone to do. Attempting to commit voter fraud in front of poll workers, whose job it is to detect fraud, is like attempting to pickpocket a police officer.” 

Represented by Advancement Project, Kirkland & Ellis, LLP and attorneys Adam Stein and Irving Joyner, the North Carolina NAACP and individual plaintiffs are challenging the photo ID provision as part of a broader lawsuit against the state’s monster voter suppression law, H.B. 589. In attempts to justify H.B. 589’s passage in 2013, proponents claimed that the photo ID requirement was necessary to prevent voter fraud – despite zero evidence the problem exists.  

“The claims of fraud were fraudulent themselves,” said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and convener of the Forward Together Moral Movement. 

State Board of Elections evidence provided to legislators just before the introduction of H.B. 589 revealed that only .000005692449 percent of votes cast over the past decade involved in-person voter impersonation.

Limitations imposed by the photo ID provision undermine the integrity of the electoral process by compromising African Americans’ and Latinos’ access to the ballot. As of 2012, African Americans comprised 34 percent of registered North Carolina voters who did not possess photo ID, yet accounted for only 22 percent of the voting population.  

"The photo ID requirement is something that creates an additional barrier for people who have been marginalized their whole lives,” said Michelle Kennedy, executive director of the Interactive Resource Center in Greensboro, who testified in the afternoon. “Imagine having to explain the worst things about your life [as the reasonable impediment declaration requires] in order to obtain basic services. The middle class would never be subjected to such scrutiny and poor people shouldn’t either.”

The court also heard testimony from Ashley Lasher, executive director of the Literacy Council of Buncombe County on challenges faced by voters with low literacy, and Maria del Carmen Sanchez, whose ordeal attempting to renew her ID showcased challenges for Latino voters due to differing naming conventions common in Latin America.

In addition to the strict photo ID requirement, H.B. 589 introduced a laundry list of regulations that systematically reduce voting access for North Carolina’s voters of color. Among other manipulations to the voting process, politicians reduced a week of early voting, eliminated same-day registration, restricted the counting of out-of-precinct provisional ballots, and eliminated a popular pre-registration program for 16- and 17-year-olds. These provisions were challenged in this case in the same federal court in July 2015, and remain pending.  

“The photo ID provision is a solution in search of a problem,” said attorney Penda D. Hair, co-director of Advancement Project. “North Carolina state legislators passed one of the nation’s strictest photo ID requirements, knowing it would disproportionately burden voters of color. In a democracy, that is not only unconstitutional – it’s immoral.”  

Trial resumes at 9:00 AM tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 28 in Winston-Salem, N.C.

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Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.