NC-Sen: NC's Chief Voter Suppression Architect Is Now Feeling The Heat On Expanding Vote By Mail

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As Democrats continue to push for national vote-by-mail, especially while our country is going through a pandemic, Republicans of course find themselves in quite a pickle. Vote-by-mail would make it easier for their constituents to vote, despite Trump’s lies about vote-by-mail leading to mass voter fraud. However, it would make it easier for Democratic voters and encourage even more people to vote. The vast majority of Republicans in the Senate oppose national vote-by-mail but Benjamin Barber at Facing South points out that one of the most vulnerable Republican Senators up for re-election, Thom Tillis (R. NC), has remained silent on this issue. That’s because he has a long history of being an architect of voter suppression in North Carolina:

Many organizers view his reluctance to take a position as part of a pattern of refusing to ensure that all voters are protected. In fact, Tillis for many years served as one of North Carolina's chief architects of voter suppression.

In 2011, North Carolina state legislators under the leadership of Tillis, then House speaker, passed a law requiring all voters to produce a photo ID, such as a driver's license, in order to cast a ballot. Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, vetoed the bill. But the following year North Carolina elected Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, and in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder gutted the Voting Rights Act and cleared the way for state lawmakers to pass restrictive voting measures with impunity.

Soon after Shelby, Speaker Tillis — claiming he wanted to protect the integrity of elections and guard against fraud — oversaw the passage of one of the country's most restrictive state voter suppression laws. The measure eliminated a week of early voting, ended same-day registration, and prohibited out-of-precinct voting — provisions used widely by African Americans. The bill also imposed a strict photo ID requirement to start in 2016, even though a Democracy North Carolina analysis of state elections board data found that 34 percent of the state's registered Black voters lacked the required state-issued photo ID.

The federal courts ultimately struck down the law before it was fully implemented, ruling that its creators attempted to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” But as the leader of the state House, Tillis led a GOP propaganda campaign to defend the legitimacy of the discriminatory law by citing claims of widespread voter fraud, despite evidence showing that fraud is a negligible problem in elections. For example, a comprehensive investigation of voter fraud allegations nationwide from 2000 to 2014 found only 31 credible incidents that involved a person pretending to be someone else at the polls, the kind of fraud addressed by photo ID laws. Of the 31 credible voter impersonation cases nationwide, only two occurred in North Carolina.

Tillis even admitted in a 2013 MSNBC interview that voter fraud was not the primary reason for the new measures. “There is some evidence of voter fraud,” he said at the time, “but that's not the primary reason for doing this.” Political observers note that the North Carolina voter suppression law that Tillis helped craft may have helped him get elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014, when he faced incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and won by just over 45,000 votes or 1.5% in an election with record turnout. That was the first time North Carolina citizens voted under some provisions of the new law, which had not yet been overturned by the courts. The changes made by the law caused widespread confusion among voters and poll workers, with a Democracy North Carolina analysis estimating it kept as many as 50,000 eligible North Carolinians from voting.

Karma is a bitch. Based on this past quarter’s fundraising and polling, we may not have Tillis to kick around for much longer:

Democrats in many of North Carolina’s top statewide races far out-raised their Republican opponents over the past few months.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham raised $7.4 million in the second quarter of 2020, a record-breaking amount for a quarter for a Senate candidate. Incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican, raised $2.6 million from April through June, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday.

And Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, seeking a second term, raised nearly $6 million from mid-February to the end of June, more than doubling the $2.4 million haul of Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, his opponent in November.

Federal and state candidates were required to file campaign finance reports this week.

The state is considered one of the nation’s top battlegrounds for winning the presidency and control of the U.S. Senate, both currently in Republican hands. Cooper won the governor’s mansion by less than 11,000 votes in 2016.

Tillis reported having $6.8 million cash on hand for the November election as of July 1. Cunningham, who has trailed Tillis throughout the campaign cycle in cash on hand, had $6.6 million on July 1.

Let’s make Tillis pay big time for his years of suppressing the vote by flipping North Carolina Blue. Click below to donate and get involved with Cunningham, Biden, Cooper and their fellow North Carolina Democrats campaigns:

Cal Cunningham

Joe Biden for President

Roy Cooper For Governor

Yvonne Lewis Holley for Lt. Governor

Josh Stein for Attorney General

Elaine Marshall for Secretary of State

Deborah Ross for Congress

Kathy Manning for Congress

Moe Davis for Congress