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.Read more
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.Read more
For most of 2010 through 2012, I was trying to figure out answers to these questions: Why are the American people so divided, and hostile to one another? How will we meet the many challenges we face when there is conflict among the people and gridlock in Washington?
We had a simple question when Eric Byler and I began our journey around the country with Story of America: Why have we become so divided as a nation and how can we become more united?
As I watched the video of our interview with James Morgan of Bakersville, NC, a mining town in the Appalachian Mountains, I finally recognized what really propelled this journey. It wasn't some academic answer to my question; it was something deeply personal.Read more
In today’s America, 50 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. marched on Washington and 150 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, America faces profound divisions along political, economic and cultural lines that threaten to destabilize our nation and democracy.
America - the nation of the people, for the people and by the people - is deeply divided. The divisions are political, economic and cultural. The result is economic decline and governmental dysfunction. Moreover, the people are growing hopeless and cynical, losing faith in America's ideals.
Opinions have polarized to the point that people along both sides of the divide view the opposition with a great deal of fear and paranoia, leading to alienation and a dehumanizing view of those who don’t share our beliefs.
The Story of America is a unique project to both document the story of our divided nation in 2013, and engage those with the power to heal these divisions - the people - in the transforming power of storytelling and dialogue.
We are focusing particular attention to the Moral Monday movement and the political struggle in North Carolina for the feature documentary. The fight here involves many fundamental divisions in America including election laws/voting rights, influence of money in politics, the role of government in our lives, racial divisions, demographic shifts, and economic policies/income inequality.
We invite viewers to submit their own statements, responses, and stories in the form of essays, videos, and photos. These submissions will be uploaded to the website, and, we anticipate that some of the clips will be included in the feature documentary.
My name is Lila Little. This is my story.
I was born in Saudi Arabia in the 1950s, while my father worked for Aramco. Lila is an Arabic name. It means Night.
I am 57 now, and so many memories flow through me, and the tears flow out. I have not always been poor, but I will be poor from now on.
Everyone has a story; I believe mine is still being written. My name is Rebekah Barber and I am currently a sophomore attending North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC with hopes of becoming a civil rights attorney. I am the daughter of Rev. Dr William Barber II, the leader of the NC NAACP.
During North Carolina's 2013 legislative session, a fierce debate took place over how to change the state tax code. Because Republicans had won a super majority in the General Assembly as well as the governor's race in 2012, the real tug-of-war centered around an aggressively conservative tax reform package championed by State Senator Bob Rucho, Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. A less aggressive proposal was preferred by House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is likely to be the Republican nominee to challenge US Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat.Read more
This is an excerpt from Rev. Dr. William Barber's speech at Binkley Baptist Church in Durham, NC on June 30, 2013 — four days after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of The Voting Rights Act of 1965.Read more
Notes by Eric Byler written on the day this interview was recorded in Aug. 2013. Release of this video was delayed due to a tense political climate in the mountains of western North Carolina.Read more