With just over a week to go before Election Day, the North Carolina NAACP on Monday filed a lawsuit to stop what it describes as a Republican-led effort to snuff out the African-American vote.
“This is our Selma and we will not back down and allow this suppression to continue,” said Rev. William Barber II, president of the organization.
According to the civil rights organization, wrongful challenges to voters’ eligibility are happening in at least three counties—Beaufort, Moore, and Cumberland—and are disproportionately affecting African Americans.
The suit (pdf) states that “a small number of individuals have recently challenged the registration of approximately 4,500 voters, based exclusively on mass mailings that were returned as undeliverable.” A press statement from the group says the challenges stem from “a coordinated campaign led by individuals with GOP ties.” Registration cancellations based on that alone is in violation of the National Voting Registration Act, the group says.
The complaint, filed Monday in federal court in the Middle District of North Carolina, states, “in many cases, voters purged by Defendants still reside at the addresses where they are registered to vote, or have moved within the county and remain eligible to vote there.”
The suit is asking for the wrongfully canceled voting registrations to be restored.
Among the plaintiffs is James Edward Arthur Sr., who’s lived in Beaufort County his entire life. He is African American and has been a registered voter for five years. He was among the over 130 voters in that county to have his registration cancelled based on the challenge of an undeliverable mass mailing—even though he moved within the county.
“I did not receive notice from the State or Beaufort County that my voter registration had been challenged, or that a hearing had been set to determine whether I would remain on the State’s list of eligible voters,” he said, referring to the procedure that election officials must follow when a challenge has been made.
“If I knew my right to vote was in jeopardy, I would do whatever I could to protect it. I want and plan to vote in the upcoming election, but I am concerned that since my registration has been canceled I will not be able to cast a ballot or it will not be counted,” he added.
Another plaintiff is James L. Cox, also African American and another lifelong resident of Beaufort County. His voting eligibility was also part of the en masse challenges—even though he currently resides at the address on his voting records.
The suit—filed months after a federal appeals court said the state’s voter ID law was created “with discriminatory intent”—says that though African Americans make up less than 26 percent of the county’s residents, they account for over 65 percent of the challenges.
“The Tar Heel state is ground zero in the intentional, surgical efforts by Republicans to suppress the voice of voters,” Barber added. “We’re taking this emergency step to make sure not a single voters’ voice is unlawfully taken away.”
The suit also comes as voters in the state take part in “the Souls to the Polls” initiative.
Montica Taulmidge, a former organizer in Raleigh, told CBS it’s “an opportunity for people to come with their congregations right after church and to vote as a community of faith.”
“Our communities of faith are super important to us so being a part of a church family,” she said, “and saying we are going to be civically minded, we are going to be civically active and engage in this process, is a huge deal for a lot of people.”
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