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Integrity and Voter Rights

August 25, 2013

Caricature of William “Boss” Tweed, Cartoon by Thomas Nast (PD-ARTlPD-old-100)

“Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You” (Psalm 25: 21).

Last week Republican Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed into law a bill requiring state approved voter identification, reducing the opportunity for early voting, and eliminating other hard-won reforms.  The law is the first enacted since the US Supreme Court in the case of Shelby County v. Holder struck down a critical provision of the Voting Rights Act.

We are told the purpose of the new law is to restore and preserve the integrity of the North Carolina vote.  We are told protecting the integrity of the American vote has been the reason for an assault on voter rights taking place across the nation [1].  Mind you, there has been no proof of widespread voter fraud, whether in North Carolina or elsewhere.

On the face of it, these changes do not appear particularly onerous.  The devil is in the details.

Early Voting

A reduction in early voting impacts most heavily the less affluent members of the community, without vehicles.  Given the importance of agriculture to North Carolina, rural homes are often widely spaced with residents who do not drive or own a vehicle reliant on a church or other group vehicle for transportation to polling places.  Deliberately intended or not, less early voting will translate into fewer votes by those with less means.

Voter ID

Then there is the matter of identification.  Data suggests as many as 300,000 legitimately registered North Carolina voters may lack a driver’s license or state ID.  The state ID, however, requires a birth certificate — something not consistently issued in the cases of home birth by midwife common among the poor.  Those unable to obtain the necessary documentation in time will be disenfranchised despite having already registered.

A disproportionate number of those who will be impacted are African Americans.  A few can still remember the state poll taxes, literacy tests, and day-long delays used to discourage them from voting in the past. They may be forgiven for having dared to hope those days were gone.

Biblical View

Integrity is not taken lightly in the Bible, though some of our politicians seem to be confused about its meaning.  Christ referred to the Pharisees as hypocrites who “ ‘cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside…are full of extortion and self-indulgence… [who] are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness’ ” (Matt. 23: 25, 27).  There can be very little confusion about that.

One way or another, in this life or the next, there will be a reckoning.  North Carolina may regret that it chose to take the lead on this issue.


[1] The non-partisan League of Women Voters is only one of the voter rights groups disturbed by organized efforts to disenfranchise qualified voters in an attempt to sway election results.


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