Activists Rally Around Rosanell Eaton as NC Voter ID Becomes Law

Yesterday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed what's been called the most restrictive voter ID bill in the nation into law.

By Brentin Mock Aug 13, 2013

They said they would "slow walk" to a photo voter ID bill, but there has been no tar in the heels of North Carolina Republican state legislators in their race to make it law. After less than nine months as governor, Republican Pat McCrory signed what’s been called the most restrictive elections bills in the nation into law yesterday. The "Voter Information Verification Act" signed by Gov. McCrory was created and passed by a Republican-dominated state legislature on the premise that voter fraud is riding roughshod all over the elections system. But no evidence of system-upending fraud exists in North Carolina. 

Besides asking voters now to carry one of a narrow list of photo ID cards to vote (starting with the 2016 election), the new law also slices a full week off of the early voting period, eliminates same-day voter registration, allows vigilante poll observers of the Vote Truther variety more leeway to harass voters, and makes it more difficult to add satellite polling sites for the elderly and disabled. 

Thousands have marched and demonstrated, while hundreds have been arrested during the "Moral Mondays" sit-ins and pray-ins at the state legislative building this year, protesting this and other bills that may have a punishing effect on people of color and low income. 

Right after Gov. McRory signed the elections bill into law, civil rights groups announced lawsuits against the state, anticipating that the law might lead to the disenfranchisement of thousands of African Americans, Latino Americans, college students and elderly voters. 

One of those lawsuits, filed by the civil rights organizations North Carolina NAACP and Advancement Project, argues that the new law is in violation of Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits any voting procedure that discriminates against people of color from taking effect. It also claims the law violates voting rights protections for people of color guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit aims at a number of the more punitive voting provisions for minorities in the state, including the elimination of same-day registration and reducing early voting. During the 2012 elections, almost 70 percent of African Americans used early voting. 

When Florida lawmakers reduced its early voting period last year, a federal judge found that it discriminated against black voters, who were more likely to vote early than white voters. Florida later apologized and restored the early voting period. 

The NAACP’s lawsuit is filed on behalf of 92-year-old Rosanell Eaton, who was one of the first African Americans to vote in North Carolina. She registered in the 1940s amid threats of literacy tests and intimidation from the Ku Klux Klan. Her name on her driver’s license does not match the name on her birth certificate or voter registration card, which may disqualify her from getting the free voter ID card she’ll need to vote under the new law, according to a press release from the Advancement Project. 

Mrs. Eaton follows in the footsteps of Viviette Applewhite of Pennsylvania and Desiline Victor of Florida, African-American women who withstood voter suppression last year to stand for the voting rights of all Americans. Mrs. Eaton has served with her state’s NAACP for over 60 years and has survived her house being riddled with bullets and crosses burned on her lawn for her work registering African Americans to vote. This year, she was one of the hundreds arrested with Moral Mondays protestors when speaking out against the new voter ID law. A Facebook page "Stand With Rosa Nell Eaton" has been created in her honor.