Emotional testimony at the voting rights hearing in North Carolina yesterday:
Some of the most stirring testimony, though, came from Glazier, who as a lawmaker watched the measure unfold up close. “It was, bar none, the worst legislative process I’ve ever been through,” said the white Fayetteville attorney, who has served in the House since 2001. “This is in a league by itself.”
“It was the most emotional two hours I ever spent in public office,” Glazier said about the House debate. “This was, for many members, a feeling like their life’s work was being rolled back”.
Rep. H.M. “Mickey” Michaux, Jr., a Durham Democrat who in 1977 became the South’s first African-American U.S. Attorney since Reconstruction, stood on the House floor with tears in his eyes, Glazier said. All forty-one Democratic legislators asked to speak in opposition to the bill.
By contrast, only Lewis, the Republican committee chair, spoke in favor. As Democrats pleaded for the bill’s defeat, “there was hardly a person on the other side looking up from their notes or their computer,” Glazier said. “I knew what that meant… It was clear to me that directions were given that only Rep. Lewis was to speak.”
At the end of the speeches, the Democrats broke protocol and stood up to vote “no” in unison. The bill passed on a party-line vote. Some Democratic lawmakers prayed aloud in the House chamber, hands on one another’s shoulders. A Republican friend walked over to Glazier to apologize.
“I had never been through anything like it in public life, and doubt I will again,” Glazier said.
I felt some of the same intensity that the North Carolina lawmaker describes when I listened to the Ohio legislature debate Ohio’s voter ID law in 2006 and again when I attended the US Senate field hearing on voting rights in Cleveland in 2012. This isn’t just a southern thing. It’s an American thing.
I think it is difficult for those of us who have not personally fought for the right to vote and don’t personally carry this history of voter suppression to understand how profound this is and how deep it goes. It is not, for us, a feeling like “our life’s work is being rolled back.” That was true for me before I heard that same weightiness that Mr. Glazier describes in 2006 and again in 2012 in Ohio. I understand it a little better now. Mr. Glazier sounds like maybe he does too.