On Monday, a preliminary injunction hearing was held in North Carolina, regarding the state’s voter laws and what opponents state are blatant discriminatory practices. Appearing before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, a team of attorneys joined forces to help the plaintiffs in the case highlight why the law should not go forward as planned.
Lawyers from the Kirkland and Ellis firm were led by Daniel Donovan, alongside North Carolina lawyers Adam Stein and Irving Joyner. The Advancement Project also sent a legal team to present their findings to Judge Thomas D. Schroeder as well. The group represented plaintiffs on behalf of the the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, which is led by President Rev. Dr. William Barber II (pictured).
Also at the court were the League of Women Voters, who presented their stances against the H.B. 589 law, which requires voters to show photo ID in order to vote, stops potential voters from registering the same day to vote, cuts the early voting window down from 17 days to 10, throws out ballots that are made outside of an individual’s precinct, and eliminates pre-registration.
At the hearing, the U.S. Department of Justice also had an opportunity to express a number of claims and young voters and activists were allowed to detail their findings regarding the discriminatory nature of the law.
“Our movement, and this hearing, builds on the legacy of those who have testified before us with their feet and blood to fight for our equal rights in this state, and certainly in this nation,” said Rev. Dr. Barber.
Rev. Dr. Barber has been one of the most-vocal opponents of the law, helping to organize the multi-organizational efforts of the state’s Forward Together Moral Movement, a collective of groups and thousands of citizens committed to social justice and protesting potentially harmful issues like H.B. 589.
In the next week, Advancement Project and the collaborative legal team will argue that the state’s law will make voting more difficult for African-American voters, which violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Advancement Project’s Co-Director Penda D. Hair delivered opening remarks on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP plaintiffs, highlighting how the state’s past political maneuverings led to the development of the voter law in question.
“The restrictive provisions of HB 589, and the enigmatic legislative process that brought this bill to fruition, reveal callous disregard for the pain caused to African-American voters by the stark limitations that this legislation imposes on their equal access to the ballot. We see clearly the long arm of slavery and Jim Crow reaching into the present,” stated Ms. Hair.
The plaintiffs presented several witnesses for testimony, representing a wide sample of voters in the state. Plaintiff Carolyn Q. Coleman, a 50-year member of the NAACP, discussed what she’s seen on the ground over the past five decades in North Carolina. As a NAACP State Director and leader of voter efforts, Ms. Coleman revealed her stance regarding H.B. 589′s passage before the court.
“Everything I worked for over 15 years was almost being lost. I would have to start working for the same things. I continue to work to see this changed,” she said.
Other witnesses included State Senator Daniel Blue, Executive Director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute Melvin Montford, and county election officials Gloria Hill and George Gilbert. The witnesses all shared the benefits by way of state policies Black voters enjoyed prior to the passing of H.B. 589.
They also added how the law effectively mars the process of civic participation. Ms. Hill shared that she had to turn away 40 voters in a precinct she worked because of H.B. 589 eliminating same-day voter registration.
In the continuing round of testimonies, 93-year-old Rosanell Eaton, a woman who faced literacy tests in the 1940s just to have the right to vote under the state’s Jim Crow laws, joined the roster of plaintiffs to testify in the case this week.