Civil rights groups have spent a decade fighting requirements that voters show photo identification, arguing that this discriminates against African-Americans, Hispanics and the poor. This week in a North Carolina courtroom, another group will make its case that such laws are discriminatory: college students.
Joining a challenge to a state law alongside the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department, lawyers for seven college students and three voter-registration advocates are making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21. The amendment also declares that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.”
There has never been a case like it, and if the students succeed, it will open another front in what has become a highly partisan battle over voting rights.
You guys knew about this already because we covered it here in 2013.
Here is the complaint. (pdf)
One thing I did not know but learned from the complaint is that North Carolina had one of the lowest voter participation rates in the nation until 1991 when they changed their election laws to allow more convenient access to the ballot. Big success! Well, if your goal is to increase access it was a big success. If your goal is to shut it down not so fabulous. I don’t know that the students will succeed but my general approach is anything that increases public awareness of new voting restrictions is good for voting enthusiasts.
I also think we have to recognize the Moral Monday folks for their role in keeping voting rights front and center in North Carolina:
Led by the North Carolina NAACP and its charismatic president, William Barber, Moral Mondays has brought thousands of people to weekly rallies against the state legislature’s Tea Party agenda, and over 60,000 (some said 80,000) one cold Saturday in February. A representative mix of black and white, old and young and in-between, has called out the legislature for its attacks on voting rights and abortion rights, its rejection of Medicaid and expanded unemployment benefits, and its embrace of fracking.
The energy and vision of Moral Mondays have rotated around a remarkable blend of rhetoric: religious, constitutional, and moral, focused on the familiar idea that a society shows itself in the way it treats the most vulnerable. There is something almost liturgical in participating, a reaffirming of community through shared language.