In 2020, voters across the country and right here in North Carolina turned out in record numbers to elect leaders to provide pandemic relief and rebuild our economy. Despite a deadly global pandemic, more than 5.5 million North Carolinians voted in the general election, representing 75% of those registered here in North Carolina.
To ensure their safety and that of their loved ones, many voters in North Carolina have used the opportunity to vote by mail in 2020. Nearly one in five voted by mail, a huge increase from previous years.
In response, a handful of politicians are trying to push us back, attacking our freedom to vote and creating barriers to voting, especially for black, brown and indigenous communities. It’s happening state after state: in Georgia, Florida, Texas and more.
Since the start of the year, at least 14 states have enacted new anti-election legislation. It’s part of a coordinated effort led by secret black money groups like Heritage Action for America, which drafted the bills behind the scenes and are pushing state lawmakers to pass them.
Now that effort to deny our freedom to vote has come to North Carolina. Here’s what the latest anti-election proposals would do:
– Tie the hands of local officials to get the resources they need to run safe and accessible elections.
-Create deliberate barriers to voting and make this ballot count if you choose to vote by mail.
Had that been the law in the 2020 election, more than 11,000 postal ballots would have been thrown away. This is ultimately the goal of these anti-election bills.
While I was in Robeson County Public Schools I was taught that democracy and participation in the democratic process were the most important core values we had as a country. Any obstruction of the democratic process and any system created to deprive voters of their right to vote are violations of these fundamental values. The right to vote is the most fundamental right guaranteed to citizens.
Bottom line: This attack on our free vote is anti-American and unpatriotic.
There is no reason to compromise on the freedom to vote. A majority of North Carolinians oppose the proposed changes, and voters overwhelmingly support the ability to vote, whether by mail or in person.
Above all, there is no reason to compromise at this time when more than 400 anti-election bills have been introduced in 45 states. It’s part of a national strategy to silence voters – especially black, brown and native voters. Our laws worked well when the majority of voters who voted by mail were white. But now that more black and brown Carolinians are voting by mail, legislative leaders want to change the rules.
We must unite now to ensure that all North Carolinians can vote so that every voice is heard and our elections reflect the will of the people. North Carolina lawmakers must not play into the hands of those who want to silence us.
Manny Mejia Diaz is the Southeastern regional organizer of Democracy NC.
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