We’ve all heard the left’s (especially the Obama administration’s) tired “race-baiting” argument against voter integrity measures — ad nauseum. For example, if measures are put into place to require identification before casting a vote, the story goes, minority voters will be shut out of the voting process.
But what if I told you that the evidence shows the precise opposite result occurred in North Carolina – that the number of minority voters actually increased after election integrity measures were implemented in the state? Because that’s exactly what took place, as we pointed out in court earlier this month.
Allow me to backtrack to put this development in context.
On July 7, 2013, a federal district court in Winston-Salem, North Carolina held hearings on a motion to enjoin the enforcement of North Carolina House Bill (HB) 589 in the 2014 general election. The plaintiffs in that case include the U.S. Department of Justice run by Attorney General Eric Holder, the NAACP, and the League of Women Voters.
The North Carolina legislature passed HB 589 in July 2013, and Governor Pat McCrory signed it into law in August, calling it “an overwhelmingly popular common-sense law.”
HB 589 contains a number of reforms relating to election integrity, including a provision for voter ID, the elimination of same-day registration, shortening the early voting period from 17 to ten days, and requiring that voters cast their ballots in their own precincts.
Judicial Watch subsequently filed an amicus curiae brief in partnership with the Allied Educational Foundation supporting the State of North Carolina and the election integrity provisions. Now an amicus participant is not typically given the opportunity to participate in oral arguments, but the court made an exception in this case.
On July 10, 2014, Christopher Coates, former Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice, presented our arguments in court. Mr. Coates pointed out that – despite the dire predictions of plaintiffs and their witnesses – voter turnout, and in particular minority turnout, actually increased in the recent primary elections held in North Carolina in May of this year, after the implementation of the reforms contained in HB 589.
Following oral arguments, the court indicated that it would likely rule on the motion in the next few weeks.
Now let’s a look at the specific arguments we raised in court and with our amicus curiae brief filed on June 18, 2014 with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) and Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill. (Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill ran for County Commissioner of Buncombe County in 2012 and lost a very close election. She alleges that this loss was due to same-day registration during early voting and to improperly cast ballots.)
The left never lets the facts get in the way of a good narrative. Liberals would prefer, as they have done in this case, to rely upon theory, conjecture, and dishonest statistics to make their ideological and partisan points. But the numbers we found are clear and indisputable.
In our amici brief, Judicial Watch and AEF compared the results of a May 4, 2010 primary election with those of a May 14, 2014, primary election, the first major election to be held in North Carolina since the passage of HB 589. The turnout numbers are “devastating to the Justice Department’s case, because they contradict all of their experts’ basis for asserting harm:”
The results of this analysis… show that black turnout increased in 2014 by every meaningful measure. Black share of the total electorate increased. The percentage of black registered voters voting increased. Using Census Bureau estimates, Dr. Camarota [the Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies] found an increase in turnout among blacks of voting age. Finally, while turnout increased across the board in May 2014, and while white turnout increased by 13.7%, black turnout increased much faster – by an astonishing 29.5%.
You can read our brief in full here. But let me just call attention to several of the most important “inconvenient truths” for the anti-election integrity activists running the Justice Department:
The Increase in Black Turnout in the Recent Primary Elections Compared to the Last Such Elections Shows That Injunctive Relief is Not Warranted.
On May 6, 2014, thirteen days before the filing of the instant motion for a preliminary injunction, the State of North Carolina held primary elections for federal and state offices, including statewide primaries for the office of U.S. Senator. The North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) posted turnout data for these elections on its website soon after the elections, which data subsequently was updated. It also posted turnout data for the last off-year primary held in May 2010.
This data was analyzed by Dr. Steven A. Camarota, an expert retained by amici. He confirms that the “May 4, 2010 election makes for a good comparison with the May 6, 2014 election because both were primary elections held in May of a non-presidential year.” He describes the result as a “natural experiment,” because the “May 6, 2014 election is the first and only election to occur” after HB 589 repealed same-day registration and out-of-precinct ballots and restricted early voting.
The results of this analysis – which may be reproduced using the publicly available data files – show that black turnout increased in 2014 by every meaningful measure. Black share of the total electorate increased. The percentage of black registered voters voting increased.
Using Census Bureau estimates, Dr. Camarota found an increase in turnout among blacks of voting age. Finally, while turnout increased across the board in May 2014, and while white turnout increased by 13.7%, black turnout increased much faster – by an astonishing 29.5%. Dr. Camarota concludes that “a comparison of the May 2010 primary and the May 2014 primary indicates that the new law will not negatively impact black participation in the election process in North Carolina.”
These results are devastating to Plaintiffs’ case, because they contradict all of their experts’ bases for asserting harm. Instead of a real-world test of the effects of HB 589, Plaintiffs have relied on elaborate analyses of its probable effects; and their experts have not been shy about predicting dramatic and dire consequences. As just one example, Dr. Charles Stewart opined that 915,426 North Carolina voters (204,959 black and 710,467 white) would have been “burdened” in the off-year elections of 2010 by the changes HB 589 makes to same-day registration, early voting, and out-of-precinct voting. He calculates that close to 2 million North Carolina voters (769,492 black and 1,172,119 white) would have been “burdened” by those changes in 2012.
Given such testimony, we might expect turnout not just to decline following the implementation of HB 589, but to crash. On May 6, 2014, however, both total turnout and black turnout significantly increased. This outcome is not merely another piece of evidence for the Court to consider. Rather, it fundamentally undermines Plaintiffs’ entire case by showing that all of the various models, hypotheses, correlations, and conjectures presented in almost 900 pages of expert reports are unreliable, because they predicted the opposite of what happened.
These facts also doom Plaintiffs’ request for an injunction. Plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed on the merits of a claim asserting either discriminatory effect or intent if the challenged provisions of HB 589 do not, in fact, cause any discernible disadvantage to minority voters. Far from suffering irreparable harm, both black and white voters will, as the recent primary elections indicate, simply adapt to the new rules and continue to turn out to vote. Finally, in the absence of any such harm, no consideration based on a balance of the equities or on the public interest will weigh in favor of preliminary relief. Because the only real-world test that we have belies the Plaintiffs’ predictions of harm resulting from HB 589, their request for an injunction should be denied.
The Obama Justice Department attack on HB 589 was not unexpected. On the day the bill passed, Attorney General Eric Holder, in a speech to the National Urban League concerning the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby Co. v. Holder, said that a DOJ voting rights lawsuit against Texas “is the Department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last.”
This statement was widely seen as a reference to a potential lawsuit against North Carolina over its photo ID law. Former Holder spokesman Matt Miller said the next day: “From everything I’ve read, the writing’s on the wall that the North Carolina law is going to draw a DOJ challenge.”
On July 29, 2013, a group of political activists attended a meeting at the White House with Attorney General Holder, Labor Secretary (formerly Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division) Tom Perez, and President Obama. Those attending included representatives from the ACLU, the NAACP, and Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton subsequently told MSNBC that, based upon what he heard at the “unprecedented” meeting, he expected action regarding North Carolina “when this governor signs the bill.”
The recent election in North Carolina shows that the Obama administration is engaged in a race-baiting canard when it suggests that voting integrity measures suppress minority votes. HB 589 aligns North Carolina with the vast majority of states (42) that do not allow a person to register and vote on the same day. It is high time that the Obama administration comes into line with the majority of the American people who want to strengthen rather than weaken ballot box integrity.
Regarding our partners, the Allied Educational Foundation, this is a charitable and educational foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life through education. In furtherance of that goal, the Foundation has engaged in a number of projects which include, but are not limited to, educational and health conferences domestically and abroad. AEF has frequently partnered with Judicial Watch to fight government and judicial corruption.