Fifty years ago, Dr. King asked the question “How Long?” before African Americans will gain the right to vote and have full access to citizenship.
On Thursday, August 6, it will be the 50th anniversary of Voting Rights Act, but many feel, the rights earned after the passage of the law, are being taken away by currently voter suppression legislation.
Activists have taken the voter suppression battle into a North Carolina courtroom contesting what they claimed is one of the harshest voting rights laws in the country. The N.C. N.A.A.C.P filed suit against the state and Gov. Pat McCory after the legislature passed H.B. 589 or more commonly known as Voter Identification and Verification Act (V.I.V.A) which they said restrict many of the provisions won after the historic Voting Rights Act (V.R.A). The law reduced early voting days, stopped same-day registration, ended out-of-precinct voting and stopped preregistration of 16-and 17 year-old high school students. Most of these processes were used by minority voters.
Closing arguments were completed on Friday, July 31. Plaintiff’s attorney Daniel Donovan, in final summation, argued that the overall effect of H.B. 589 put the law in direction violation of Sec. 2 of the V.R.A. “The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Donovan said.
Judge Thomas Schroeder closely questioned Donovan posing such hypothetical to the plaintiff’s attorneys: What would be standard of remedy for 589 if I granted relief? How would the court know if it had corrected the law?
Thomas Farr, a state attorney, said the plaintiff’s had not proved that the law is racially discriminatory, and that legislature had the right to change election laws. H.B. 589 was passed less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v Holder where the court struck down certain pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act.
The case has garnered international attention from activists, civil rights and legal scholars who have stated that the case could set the template for changes in voting rights legislation.
Judge Schroeder is not expected to make a ruling for several weeks.