In what can only be described as a bewildering exercise in editorial end-zone dancing, Ron Christie, writing for the Daily Beast, argued recently that Federal District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder’s August 8th ruling represents a clear victory for voter-ID proponents. Given the fact that Schroeder’s opinion made no mention of voter-ID provisions, however, Christie’s position leaves the reader “wondering at the competence and integrity” of the author and his views.
The ruling is certainly a setback for civil rights advocates in what has become a protracted and contentious battle over North Carolina’s aptly-nicknamed “monster voting law.” Enacted on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision, the 2013 law was rushed through the General Assembly absent meaningful debate or public discussion. The law, by many accounts the nation’s strictest and most far-reaching voting legislation, includes provisions that drastically cut back early voting periods, eliminate same-day registration, end voter preregistration, and disqualify ballots that are cast out-of-precinct. These provisions have gone into effect in 2014 and a voter-ID requirement is scheduled to follow suit in 2016. Schroeder’s decision denied the Department of Justice’s and civil rights groups’ petition to stay the 2014 roll-out until the law goes to trial next summer.
Christie attempted to position himself as a champion of truth early on in his essay, throwing punches at the Justice Department, the N.C. NAACP and other plaintiffs, and the media, in equal turn. His self-righteousness reached a zenith mid-way through his commentary where he pronounced, “Facts have a terrible way of getting in the way of a political narrative.” I couldn’t agree more, but one would be hard-pressed to find much fact in Mr. Christie’s treatise. A casual observer might be convinced that Christie’s claims evidence his general lack of understanding about the actual terms of the case. On the contrary, they show his shameless disregard for factual accounting.
His position is characteristic of those found in the larger voting suppression landscape. Undeterred by a lack of evidence to support their claims of widespread election swindles (or perhaps propelled by it), Christie and his fellow election fraud-truthers routinely make a case for their hysterical “jeopardized elections” narrative by contorting voting statistics in medal-worthy displays of mental gymnastics.
They’re not ignorant of the processes involved in the administration of elections. By taking up the mantle of “election integrity” they are consciously manipulating public discussion to advance an agenda that exists to buttress a status-quo rooted deeply in traditions of classist exclusivity and structural racism.
It’s no coincidence that North Carolina’s monster voter law was ratified just one month after the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision effectively hobbled the Voting Rights Act. Nor that N.C. legislators targeted for dissolution the very mechanisms that fostered and better facilitated African American participation. Nor that the N.C. voting law in contention adds restrictions that disproportionately affect African Americans, women, and young people. Individually and in sum, these measures are designed to reduce the political agency of particular groups of North Carolinians. Couching discrimination in the language of “election integrity” doesn’t make it any less an affront to American democracy today than overt calls for voter suppression did in times long and recent past.
History didn’t end in 1965 but, sadly, neither did racism nor political opportunism. The fact that a lawsuit is even necessary in this day and age to prevent the State of North Carolina from systematically disenfranchising segments of its voting population testifies to that shameful and disappointing truth.