The North Carolina Republican Party has held a stranglehold over the state’s government since 2011, when it rode a Republican wave into office, at which point it immediately got to work cementing permanent legislative majorities. It hasn’t always been successful; in recent years, its voter disenfranchisement efforts through racial gerrymandering and a law requiring photo ID to vote have been struck down by federal courts.
Here’s what U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals judge Diana Motz wrote in her opinion striking down the voter ID law in July 2016:
The record makes clear that the historical origin of the challenged provisions in this statute is not the innocuous back-and-forth of routine partisan struggle that the State suggests and that the district court accepted. Rather, the General Assembly enacted them in the immediate aftermath of unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with a troubled racial history and racially polarized voting.
Twice, the Supreme Court has declined to reinstate the law. So naturally, the NCGOP wants to enshrine it in the state constitution. As Kira Lerner of ThinkProgress wrote on Tuesday:
More than the required 60 percent of the state’s lower chamber voted in favor of an amendment Monday night that would add a voter ID requirement to the state constitution. If given another favorable vote in the House this week and then if passed by the Senate, North Carolina voters will decide on the amendment in November. The bill does not specify which forms of ID would be accepted or any other details about the potential law. The GOP hopes it would have time to pass the law between November and January, when the party might lose its supermajority.
The voter ID law in North Carolina, as in other states, was branded as an effort to prevent voter fraud. In April 2017, the North Carolina State Board of Elections released an audit of the 2016 election which found that, had the photo ID requirement been in effect for the general election, just one vote—out of nearly 4.8 million cast—would have been prevented.
After using those gerrymandered districts to hold on to supermajorities through the first two years of Democratic governor Roy Cooper’s term (and the four years of Republican Pat McCrory before that), the possibility of a blue wave means Democrats could break at least one of them, which could help to sustain Cooper’s vetoes and break the Republicans’ grip on power.
In fact, the November ballot could have up to six state constitutional amendments on the ballot in November, as the Asheville Citizen-Times notes, several of which are aimed at taking power away from Cooper and the state’s liberal-majority Supreme Court:
The legislature is considering half a dozen constitutional amendments as lawmakers try to adjourn their 2018 session by the end of the week. They include measures that would cap the state income tax at just above its current rate, require a photo ID to vote, make hunting and fishing a constitutional right, change the way some judicial vacancies are filled to give legislators a role in the process, increase the rights of victims of crime and switch control of the state’s elections from gubernatorial appointees to people chosen by the legislature.
Of course, the only reason that North Carolina was even able to enact a voter ID law in the first place was because the Supreme Court struck down an essential part of the Voting Rights Act. If you want a glimpse of what the future of America looks like if we keep going down this path, look no further than North Carolina.