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July 2015

Voting Rights trial coming to a close

Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday, July 31, in U.S. Middle District Court in the controversial voting rights trial where plaintiffs seek to overturn North Carolina’s controversial Voter Identification and Verification Act.

North Carolina N.A.A.C.P, the League of Women Voters, the A.C.L.U and others will have two hours to present their closing arguments in the three-week long trial in which they sued Gov. Pat McCrory and the state charging that V.I.V.A  discriminate against African-Americans and other minority groups.

Plaintiffs charged the law is biased against minority groups by placing several roadblocks to voting including eliminating same-day voter registration, reducing the days of early voting from 17 to 10, ending preregistration for 16 and 17 year-old and prohibited out-of-precinct provisional voting.

The state has argued during the trial that the law does not discriminate against blacks, but, strengthens the integrity of the voting process by protecting citizens against voter fraud.

It has attracted international media attention, and was closely watched by legal scholars, activists, and politicians.   Also, Dr. William Barber, president of the N.C. N.A.A.C.P and leader of the Moral Monday Movement, led three thousands demonstrators through downtown Winston-Salem to bring attention to the start of the trial.

On Thursday, the courtroom was packed with spectators who expected closing arguments, however,  the testimony of Brian Neesby, business system analysts for the State Board of Elections, was sharply questioned over his methodology used  to analyze mail failure rates between same-day voters and those of  traditional voters.   Allison Riggs, one of plaintiff’s attorneys, argued that failure rates among same-day voters were lower than traditional registrants.

Dr. Alan Lichtman, a Distinguished Professor of History at American University,  was called back to the stand to rebut much of testimony offered by Neesby.

Judge Thomas Schroeder is not expected to rule on the case for several months.


Voting Rights Trial expected to end this week

Testimony is expected to end this week in the civil suit seeking to overturn North Carolina’s controversial voting rights law, Voter Information Verification Act (V.I.V.A).   On Friday, the defense started presenting expert witnesses who testified that V.I.V.A has presented no major obstacles to minority and poor voters.

Defense attorney Thomas Farr on Monday called Sean Trende, a Senior Election Analyst with Real Clear Politics a conservative politics web site, who testified that V.I.V.A. didn’t have any major impact on minority voter turnout in 2014 arguing that the law didn’t change early voting, out-of-precinct voting or the youth vote in any substantial way.

But in an aggressive exchange with one of plaintiff’s attorney Dale Ho, Trende acknowledged he only enrolled in two statistics courses as a graduate student.  Trende never received his Ph.d in any discipline although he has earned a master’s degree in political science and a law degree from Duke University, as well as, he earned a bachelor’s from Yale University.

Attorney Ho further challenged him about his credentials on early voting where Trende acknowledge that his only work in this area was an exchange on Twitter.  He admitted further that his testimony was incorrect in an earlier case about California as a state that allowed same day registration.

Farr said that Trende was more than qualified with his work at Real Clear Politics and his work with University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabado’s Crystal Ball.  He has also been used as an expert guest on Fox News and NPR.

But attorney Ho said that Trende hadn’t studied election laws in all 50 states, and it would further erode his credibility as an expert witness on election law.

Judge Thomas Schroeder admitted Trende as an expert witness.  “I’m going to listen to what he has to say,” Judge Schroeder said.

V.I.V.A restricts voting rights for blacks


A history professor testified that if the Voter Identification Verification Act (V.I.V.A) is allowed to stand it will stagnate voting rights and hamper economic and social progress in North Carolina.

Dr. James Leloudis, a University of North Carolina history professor who is an expert in the history of N.C. and the South,  said V.I.V.A. is discriminatory against blacks and other minorities because it restricts voting by reducing same-day registration, by restricting pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-old, and reduces an extended early voting period—all provisions used disproportionately by blacks.  His testimony was before Judge Thomas D. Schroeder in U.S. Middle District Court in the case brought by N.A.A.C.P and other plaintiffs against the state of North Carolina.

“If House Bill 589 is allowed to stand, North Carolina risks repeating history, once again setting aside hard-won gains for racial equality and for the state’s democratic and economic vitality,” said Leloudis.    Professor Leloudis emphasized that the law fit a “cyclical” pattern in North Carolina history of expansion of voting rights followed immediately by a conservative restriction of suffrage for minority and progressive whites.

Phillip Strach, attorney representing the state, countered that Professor Leloudis hadn’t review the legislative history of H.B. 589, nor had he conducted a survey of voter attitudes toward the bill.

Recounting the history of voting in the state, Leloudis said in the late 1890s black Republicans and progressive whites had formed a coalition called “Fusionist” and they expanded universal male suffrage, increased funding for education, and elected the highest number of black officials in the state’s history.   Leloudis testified that there were over 1,000 locally elected black officials across North Carolina, and ninety percent of registered black voters participated in the 1986 election.  About three quarters of the legislative assembly was composed of Black Republicans and progressive white candidates as a result of the election.

“It was one of the most remarkable moments in state history as an example of inclusive democracy,” he testified.   “During these periods of change, North Carolina won recognition as the most democratic state in the South.”

But, the white supremacists, whose mouthpiece was the Raleigh News and Observer, led a campaign of intimidation and violence in regaining control of the state legislature.  In Winston-Salem, the local Republican newspaper reported that “there were crowds of men who gathered around the polls in each ward and… ..boldly drove a large per cent of the colored Republicans voters and good many white voters away from the poll,”  according to Leloudis report.

Based on his report, Leloudis testified that black participation in elections went to virtually zero in the early 1900s as a result of the white backlash, and continued to suffer during the Jim Crow era in state politics.  African Americans made electoral gains after passage of the Voting Rights law, but saw restrictions during the conservative backlash of the late 1900s.  The height of the backlash occurred during race baiting senatorial election in which Republican Jesse Helms used a racial inflammatory ad against black candidate Harvey Gantt.  The infamous 1990 “Hands”  ad showed a white man allegedly being denied a job because of affirmative action programs.

The trial is expected to end this week, but Judge Thomas Schroeder is not expected to immediately rule in the case.






Professor testified voter fraud “exceedingly rare” in elections

An expert witness for the plaintiff, suing North Carolina over its new restrictive voting rights law, told the court that voter fraud has had minimal effect on the outcome of state and national elections.

Dr. Lori Minnite, Political Science professor at Rutgers University of New Jersey, testified that of 26 cases of voter fraud reported between 2000-2013 only three were investigated and referred to local prosecutors for charges.  “Voter fraud are exceedingly rare both nationally and in North Carolina,” she said.

Additionally, the State Board of Elections (S.B.O.E) only referred two cases of voter impersonation to county prosecutors.  And, of the approximately 35 million votes cast in N.C. instances of voter impersonation were virtually “non-existent”.

According to her,  the Voter Identification and Verification Act (V.I.V.A) requirements for photo ID, and elimination of same-day registration were unnecessary.  However, under cross examination by defendant’s Attorney Phillip Strach,  Prof. Minnite agreed that voter fraud could affect the outcome of close elections.

There was a paucity of evidence of fraud prior to enactment of H.B. 589, said Prof. Minnite.  She examined the records, transcripts and proceeding of the N.C. State Board of Elections and could only find two instances of charges of voter impersonation by a Canadian citizen posing as a U.S. resident, and in the other incident five people who were convicted of vote buying.

In reviewing the legislative history of H.B. 589, Professor Minnite observed that lawmakers and citizens frequently referred to voter fraud, but there was no credible evidence to substantiate charges.   For example, former speaker Thomas Tillis told the media that the law would “restore confidence in elections” but it was not “primary reason for doing this’.

Plaintiff’s attorney presented to the court a taped deposition of Jay Delancy, executive director of the Voter Integrity Project, who claimed to have found numerous example of voter fraud.   The S.B.O.E found his charges to be unsubstantiated, but Delancy openly claimed that many of his ideas were used in crafting H.B. 589.

” I conclude that stringent photo identification requirements to vote are not justified by claims that such requirements are needed to reduce or prevent voter impersonation forms of election fraud because as the empirical record makes clear, fraud committed by voters either in registering to vote or at the polls on Election Day is exceedingly rare,” she stated.

Week Two _ Voting Rights Trial

Voter Laws North Carolina

Plaintiffs in the federal voting rights case continued to press their argument in U.S. Middle District Court Monday that the “restrictive” Voter Information Verification Act negatively impacted African-American, Hispanic and young voters. V.I.V.A was passed by the Republican-dominated legislature in 2013, and would reduce early voting days, stop same-day registration and terminate a program to preregister high school students.

The case currently being argue before Judge Thomas D. Schroeder is expected to last for the next three weeks, and may impact voting rights legislation around the country, as well as, influenced the 2016 presidential election.  Last week, over three thousands demonstrators led by the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P converged on downtown Winston Salem to protest the law.  “This is our Selma!” the Rev. William Barber, president the N.C. N.A.A.C.P has said about the importance of having the law overturned.

On Monday, July 20, Dr. Steven Lawson, history professor at Rutgers University, testified that he reviewed hundred of pages of reports, laws, and archival materials, and he believed that H.B. 589 was discriminatory toward African-Americans, and young people.  He based his testimony on evidence from document that showed the Republican-controlled legislature deviated from the usual procedure in passing the election law.  Prior to passage of VIVA, most bill concerning elections was referred to the House Judicial Committee, but Dr. Lawson said it was a “singular departure from the customary practice” after H.B. 589 was referred to the House Rules Committee.

The Supreme Court decision in Shelby v Holder dismantled the Voting Rights Act of 1965 after it ended a requirement that nine states with histories of discrimination, including North Carolina, get federal approval before altering their election laws.  Shortly after Shelby was passed, N.C. State Senator Thom Goldsby, New Hanover County, said the legislature had to take a “fresh look and likely change H.B. 589”.  The legislature proceeded to pass one of the most restrictive voting rights laws in the nation.  Dr. Lawson indicated that the law had a discriminatory impact on minority voters.

Professor Peter Levine of Tufts University testified about the effects of the voting law on young people.  Levine said that in states he studied with restrictive voting laws youth registration was restrictive.  In North Carolina, Levine testified that before V.I.V.A the youth vote was about 42.6 percent, but after the law was pass it dropped to 32.3 percent.  He said young people were more likely to use same day registration provisions that would be eliminated under the law.  Also, the preregistration of 16 year old would be eliminated under the law which would remove approximately 150,000 young people that were currently listed on voting roles.  “Preregistration was positive for young people.  It is very helpful to offer 16 and 17 concrete activities to participate in,” Professor Levine said.

The trial will continues before Judge Thomas D. Schroeder for the next three weeks.

Just a thought

Former President Jimmy Carter told the Chattanooga (TN) Times Free Press that his father was an “enlightened segregationist”.  I don’t know what that means!  Were there  “good” segregationists, and “bad” segregationists. That comment seems to fall under the benevolent South where blacks weren’t treated that poorly.

The article doesn’t go into great details, but President Carter also said we must distinguished between the confederate battle flag, and the confederate heroes on Stone Mountain.

If the article is accurate, those are very troubling comments from the former president.

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