Tea Party voter suppression tactics: repeal this law now

There is a boot on the neck of our democracy. It is the boot of the Tea Party.

long line voting 2014-11-01Identical laws in Texas and North Carolina strangled voter turnout. From 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM on election day, people waited in long lines to vote. Many people took one look at the line and turned around. Kay Hagan lost by less than 19 votes per precinct. I watched people walk away from the line all day in Wilson. Some people came back three times, left to go to work, left to take care of their kids, came back with their kids, and stood in the cold looking on when the deputy was posted at the end of the line to turn people away.

The deputy and the State Board of Elections are just pawns in this game. In Wilson, there were only two laptops in use to verify voter identity. Voting machines stood empty all day long. No sign anywhere indicated that this was a place to vote. Orange road cones partially blocked each entrance and numerous parking spaces. Mr. Walsh, the chief judge, soldiered on, watching his voters walk away, wishing he had another laptop.

Lou Martin, a true Republican, a surgeon, was campaigning for his wife, and was very suspicious of us at first. Right next to our sign with the Election Protection Hotline 1-888-OUR-VOTE, he improvised a competing sign, covering one of his own yard signs with white paper and writing in Sharpie, “the real number to call if you have a problem voting” followed by the phone number for the State Board of Elections. By midday he agreed with us. Something needs to be done about these long lines.

One man was told he had already voted. One woman was told she was not registered. She protested that she had voted here in the primary with assistance from the very same poll worker. She was allowed to cast a provisional ballot. One man waited in line for two hours only to be handed a transfer and told to go to another precinct. It was 7:20 PM. He would never make it. He had borrowed his friend’s car for two hours for nothing.

These were not isolated incidents. I waited well over an hour to vote on Saturday, November 1st in Raleigh. Casey Bowen of Cary reported a two and a half hour wait. The Charlotte Observer reported long lines all over Mecklenburg County. Caitlin Cary volunteered to drive people to the polls. Here’s her story, abridged:

“We got to Creech Road and it was packed. PACKED. Nowhere to pull up for curbside voting, nowhere, even, to park. I made two circles around and then I said, ‘I think you may want to go inside if you can manage it.’ I knew Ella was going to have to fill out a provisional ballot, and she’d said earlier that she’d brought the wrong glasses. I saw no hope for them filling out ballots in the dim light of the car–if we could ever even get to the curbside spots. In they went.

I got in the car and moved it to a blessed curb-front spot where Ella and Randolph would be sure to see me when they came out. And they did come out some 20 minutes later. It was 7:15. I’d picked them up at 4:45. “Did you get to vote, Ms. Moore?” I asked. “Yes I sure did,” she said. Randolph yawned loudly.”

Thom Tillis was elected to the US Senate under these conditions. He was Speaker of the House when this law was passed. He said “The passage of this bill is a testament to General Assembly members’ relentless efforts in working to strengthen our election system.” As a state congressman, it is his responsibility to read and understand each law. If he did not know that the law would suppress voter turnout, then he failed in his capacity as a state congressman. If he did know, then he deliberately suppressed voter turnout. In either case, is he fit to govern?

2 replies »

  1. Fine piece, Josh. In Ashe County, NC, Carol and I walked in, were verified (we had our voter registration cards which expedited) and poll workers told us we’d need photo ID in 2016. We voted on paper ballots with Bic pens (electronic machines in the county having been taken out of service as unreliable). Whether the electronic vote counter worked properly I cannot say.

    What I suppose I’m saying is that in a conservative Republican enclave like our mountain county, there was no need for suppression. Of course, living in a county with a population smaller than the city of Wilson, NC, is probably a factor, too. But I expect the former carried more weight in our experience than the latter.

    Something must be done. Every voter should have OUR experience, not the one you describe here. What you describe here is not democracy.