Update March 25, 2009: NC Attorney General Roy Cooper attended People of Color Lobby Day at the State Legislature with NC NAACP activists to announce he is filing a "friend of the court brief" in Supreme Court voting rights case. See Associated Press coverage.The NC NAACP release can be found at the end of this article.
The U.S. Supreme Court's latest interpretation of the Voting Rights Act is a "direct blow" to the state's efforts to heal the "racist wounds of the past," the NC NAACP says. In a 5-4 decision March 9, 2009, the high court ruled that the Voting Rights Act does not apply to legislative districts that are less than 50 percent minority. The decision means that a congressional district in the Wilmington area will have to be redrawn and that minorities could lose representation. See coverage in the Raleigh News and Observer.
A N&O editorial, "A seat, a setback: Supreme Court ruling invalidating the shape of an NC legislative district will dilute minority voters influence" supports the NC NAACP position.
Below is a joint statement of Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the NC NAACP; Amina J. Turner, Executive Director; and Mr. Al McSurely, Legal Redress Committee Chair.
Yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court decision was a direct blow to the State of North Carolina and its efforts to heal the racist wounds of the past. The Court, in a 5-4 decision, deleted House District 18 in Pender and New Hanover Counties from the voting map.
Five justices stripped the rights of Black and White voters in the area just north of Wilmington to legal protections while they did the hard work of rebuilding voting alliances in what is called fusion politics.
In an act of ironic historic denial, the Court made no reference to the events of 1898, when white supremacist mobs were organized by powerful anti-fusionist forces to terrorize both Black and White voters who had successfully fused their voting power in Wilmington.
Four Justices acknowledged this ugly history. They ruled the purpose of the Voting Rights Act—to remedy the historical denial of Black voting rights—can be met by facilitating Black-White voting alliances. They agreed with the State of North Carolina, represented by our Solicitor General, Chris Browning, and with the NAACP’s 20,000 North Carolina members, three Black Pender voters, and the NC ACLU, all of whom were represented in an Amicus Brief by Anita Earls, Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
But five Justices failed to acknowledge Pender County was first formed to dilute the voting strength of Black voters in the region. Five justices (and much of the media commentary on the decision) acted as if the Wilmington coup d’etat, perhaps the ugliest chapter in North Carolina’s history, never happened.
Five Justices ruled that since Black voters in Pender County constitute only 39% of the voters in a legislative district, they were not protected by the Voting Rights Act, even though they have successfully reached out to White voters--like their great grandparents a century before--to elect candidates of their choice.
The retrograde decision of the anti-fusionist judges is a stark reminder that, despite the progress in race relations that recent political events may portend, our society is still saddled with scores of anti-fusionist life appointees sitting on the Federal Judiciary bench.
We are not in a post-racial society, socially or politically. Anti-fusionist judges are trying desperately to hold back the new tide of Black-White voting alliances that are breaking the anti-fusionists’ grip on the Solid South. Justice Souter’s dissent rightly pointed out his anti-fusionists’ colleagues wanted to force “the States to perpetuate racially concentrated districts"—the last-ditch tactic of anti-fusionists to hold onto their power base in old Dixie during the next electoral cycle.
In 1898 anti-fusionists came to Wilmington in red shirts with Gatling guns. They sprayed bullets at any Black person they saw. They burned down the fusionist newspaper. And they banished black and white fusionist leaders from their homes. In 2009 five anti-fusionists in black robes, in denial of the long-term trauma the 1898 terrorist attack caused to the body politic of North Carolina, issued an ahistorical decision that deprives the new fusion movement key legal protections.
This time, we will not be run off. We will stand and fight with our allies. We demand Congress immediately amend Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to ensure its promise to protect minority voters and their principled white allies is met.
NC’s AG leads filing of Amicus Curiae in Support of Section 5 of the VRA
Today North Carolina’s Attorney General announced the filing of an Amicus Brief in support of the constitutionality of Section V of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). The VRA which was reauthorized in 2006, and signed by former President George W. Bush, is now being challenged by the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One of Austin, TX. Certain sections, Section 5 being one require periodic renewal and affects nine states and 40 of North Carolina’s counties. This section mandates that any proposed voting changes to electoral procedures must be pre-cleared by the US Department of Justice. No change must have the “purpose nor the effect of discriminating based on race or color.” In addition, section 5 assures that the rights of language minorities is protected, mandating that municipalities and other government entities must provide ballots or interpreters for non-English speaking citizens during elections.
Attorney General Roy Cooper made this historic announcement at the 4th Annual People of Color Justice & Unity Legislative Day, forty-four years following the initial passage of the national Voting Rights Act in 1965. Cooper commended the work of the state NAACP president, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II for bringing attention to this challenge to national NAACP and rallying other state NAACP offices to sign on in an effort to gain support from their own state attorney generals. Five other states’ attorneys general from Arizona, California, Louisiana, Mississippi and New York joined the filing.
The People of Color Day brings advocates from across the state to Raleigh where the state NAACP and representatives from over 85 social justice, environmental, peace activists and civil rights organizations convene for their annual lobby day at the NC General Assembly.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP--the nation's oldest, largest and most widely-recognized grassroots–based civil rights organization—is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP has been carrying out the mission and the vision of the NAACP since 1943.
Anson, Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Camden, Caswell, Chowan, Cleveland, Craven, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Franklin, Gaston, Gates, Granville, Greene, Guilford, Halifax, Harnett, Hertford, Hoke, Jackson, Lee, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Northampton, Onslow, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Person, Pitt, Robeson, Rockingham, Scotland, Union, Vance, Washington, Wayne, Wilson