North Carolina has been conducting a real-time experiment on the efficacy of voter suppression—and the results suggest both that it works, and that it’s far from the only factor at play in the state.
“Voter suppression” has become a watchword in the state after a multi-year fight against the 2013 HB 589 voter law, a law championed by Republicans that reduced the early-voting period for elections by seven days, ended same-day voter registration, and established strict voter ID requirements. Those provisions—which have been demonstrated to affect minority communities most—were struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals this summer for naked discrimination. But data from North Carolina’s State Board of Elections on the early-voting period indicate that continued efforts by Republicans at the county levels are having real effects on the election.
The general strategy that many Republicans pursued to make party-line changes to the first week of early voting were outlined in correspondence from state GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse. Several county boards of elections eliminated Sunday voting during that week and severely curtailed the number of polling places and their hours of operation. Three additional county boards of election were successfully sued by the state NAACP for discriminatory purges of black names from voter rolls. Both the Fourth Circuit’s rulings, and the pattern of decisions by counties in circumventing it, suggest that Republicans were trying to gain an electoral advantage by reducing the number of African American voters.