What is irreparable harm, in this case? I think it is pretty clear: depriving North Carolina citizens of our right to vote. If the provisions of the law make it difficult for any group of our citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote then it clearly, prima facie, causes irreparable harm.
A lot of attention has been focused on the Voter ID part of the law, which doesn’t go into effect until 2016. But all of us who have worked the polls during early voting and on election day know that the provisions that will now go into effect this fall will make a huge difference:
- Cutting early voting from 17 to 10 days
- Eliminating same day registration during early voting
- Ruling that provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct can’t be counted – when this is the primary purpose of provisional ballots.
Other states are currently expanding provisions like these – to make it easier for anyone to vote who can legally vote. But not states like North Carolina, where Republican legislators jumped at the opportunity provided by the end of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to pass what the New York Times calls the “most restrictive voting rights act in the country.” Making it more difficult for people who have less control over their work hours to vote, or who have recently moved, or who haven’t had a chance to get to the DMV or the BOE to register is a good thing for Republicans, since it is well documented that folks who are more likely to vote Democrat -- minorities, the young and the poor – depend on these efforts to expand access to the polls to be able to exercise their right to vote.
What can we do to minimize the irreparable harm permitted by Judge Schroeder?
We need to do everything we can to expand and educate the electorate between now and the start of early voting.
- Register more new voters. Between now and October 10 when voter registration for this election ends we need to work with YouCanVote and other efforts to register as many voters as we can in Durham County – and make sure they know what the rules are about when and where to vote.
- Educate new and infrequent voters about the law. When we write our Power of the Pen letters we need to make sure that our letters identify the precinct polling place where the individual needs to vote if they want to vote on election day. Make sure they know that their vote won’t count on election day unless they vote at the right polling place. Encourage women you write to vote during early voting when they have flexibility about where they can vote.
- We need to publicize the fact that the Durham County Board of Elections has moved and so Early Voting will once again be at a new site.
- Those of us who enjoy the face-to-face of canvassing need to be out in the neighborhoods with Kay Hagan’s team making sure people we don’t reach with our letters know how important it is to vote.
- We need to make sure everyone knows the importance of fair judges at every level of jurisprudence. Thomas Schroeder was appointed by President George W. Bush so we probably couldn’t expect a “fair” verdict from him in this case. But there are judges who understand what “irreparable harm” is, like the Alabama judge who just found that a new state abortion law that would have closed 3 of 5 abortion clinics put an undue burden on a woman’s ability to choose to have an abortion before the fetus was viable. As if that wasn’t the point. But as the Alabama Judge pointed out, that’s illegal. We have the opportunity this year to elect fair judges to the State Supreme Court: Robin Hudson and Sam Ervin and Cheri Beasley. And to the State Appeals Court: Mark Davis and Lucy Inman. We need to make sure that their names are as familiar to Democratic leaning voters as Kay Hagan’s.
- In short, we need to do everything we did in 2012 and more this year to undue the irreparable harm the state legislature, the Governor and the Judge have done by passing and supporting this mean-spirited, rights-abrogating law.
In one of his letters about what this law means Rev. Barber wrote:
"We all believe in justice, fair play, treating people right and using political power to better society. These principles are rooted in our deepest moral virtues."
Let’s do everything we can to make sure that voters who support these principles are in the majority on election day. If we do everything we can to Turn NC Blue, we can take the first steps back to a North Carolina that works in the best interests of all its families.