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Targeting Black Voters with Surgical Precision Is Illegal!

Voting restrictions imposed by the North Carolina General Assembly during the legislative session immediately following President Barack Obama's reelection have been ruled unconstitutional by a Federal Appeals Court. The unanimous 3 judge panel ruled that the law targeted African American voters with "almost surgical precision" to counteract increased voter participation among communities of color in the state.   Story of America documented the crafting of the law in 2013: The voting restrictions were waiting in the wings of the North Carolina State Senate during the summer of 2013 as a more moderate House Bill 589 was being crafted. After the Republican majority on the United States Supreme Court ruled that the a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act should be nullified, the state senate added 50 pages of new voting restrictions designed to create long lines in urban centers, and place other burdens on minorities, students, and the poor.  The amended bill was rammed through both houses and signed by Governor Pat McCrory (R) within a matter of days. McCrory later said that he the had signed the bill without reading it. The Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in Shelby v. Holder on June 25, 2013 was an unexpected decree considering the case before them. In Shelby County, Alabama, white lawmakers had redistricted their county board of supervisors in order to eliminate the only African American member. The Department of Justice stepped in, the white lawmakers sued, and Republican operatives joined the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs. Rather than rule on whether or not race-based redistricting is constitutional, the five conservatives on the Supreme Court ruled that federal regulation overseeing changes to election law in areas with a history of voter suppression needed to be updated for a new, post-racism America. Rather than blocking discriminatory election law changes before they go into effect, the Department of Justice would now have to wait until after the law was implemented, and, prove that it had impacted voters in an unconstitutional manner. North Carolina held elections in 2014 with some of HB 589's provisions in effect — which means that the current state legislature was elected using illegal voting restrictions.   U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R), who was also elected in 2014, shepherded the voting restrictions through the General Assembly in 2013 as House Speaker, then benefitted from them the following year as minority voter participation fell off precipitously. Continue reading

Must See Sermons by Rev. Dr. WIlliam Barber

Rev. Dr. William Barber's moral critique of plutocracy is a call to arms, not just for the faithful, but for all who want to achieve the America promised to us in our founding documents. Here are 4 videos of Rev. Barber speeches and sermons, produced by Story of America: Here he breaks tradition and comments on the 2016 presidential race in each of 2 guest sermons at the All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington DC: Rev. Dr. William Barber's message of moral clarity and civic courage is spreading. The video above by Eric Preston of Fusion Films documents Rev. Barber's Palm Sunday sermon at the historic Riverside Church in New York City.  Yara Allen sings. "Walk with me, Lord" to introduce to Rev. Barber's sermon. Continue reading

Federal Trial on North Carolina's Voting Restrictions Underway

Winston-Salem, NC —  Story of America witnessed the North Carolina General Assembly's passage of what many call the most aggressive voting restrictions since the end of the Jim Crow Era.  A Federal Court challenge to determine the constitutionality of North Carolina's restrictions may well be headed to the Supreme Court. I spoke with Allison Riggs, lead counsel for the League of Women Voters, which, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and the North Carolina NAACP will argue  that House Bill 589 violates the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  [CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EXAMINING THE CASE] Continue reading

5 Hour Wait to Vote in Urban Centers: 2016's most cynical election strategy

This video shot on election day 2012 is the best documentation so far of the unfairness of long lines at the polls in urban centers. Subsequently, other swing states such as Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin have implemented policies designed to engineer long lines at the polls in urban centers. Defenders of this strategy say election administration should be 'equal' regardless of population density, even if this means unequal access to the polls due to waiting times. Conservative lawmakers, who have accepted and implemented election law changes suggested by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage foundation have also accepted the argument that the constitutional right to equal justice under law does not protect things like early voting and weekend voting simply because they help to ease long lines in populated areas. Instead, they argue, the notion of equal protection can be used to justify cutting back on early voting and weekend voting because they are essential to avoid long lines where the population is dense, but less so where the population is sparse.Critics of the "long lines" electoral strategy compare it to Jim Crow practices such as poll taxes, saying that wage earners who miss time at work or have to hire child care in order to wait five or more hours to vote are facing the equivalent of a poll tax. By contrast, we shot the video below on the same day, in a more rural area of Virginia 2 hours southwest, not far from James Madison University: Continue reading

Pride Before Facts

I know most of you don't want to hear this, but I need to get this off my chest. This is not a critique of President Obama's speech; it is a request for us to hit pause during the ongoing political circus and think about premise of the entire spectacle. Why do we need to hear that we are number one from our president every year?  Even after Iraq and the financial crisis, most of us want to hear that America is #1. We are very invested in this identity, this story of us. Continue reading