North Carolina Republicans are apparently pretty happy that black voter turnout is down in their state, sending out a press release claiming that the “North Carolina Obama coalition” is “crumbling” as a result.
North Carolina Republicans are right this is good for them politically. But it is strange and alarming for a political party to be happy about fewer people voting, instead of getting more people out to vote — especially in a way that’s clearly racially motivated.
Still, it’s somehow not surprising that North Carolina Republicans are proud about this turn of events. After all, North Carolina Republicans enacted voting restrictions that a federal court characterized as “target[ing] African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” And even after those restrictions were struck down in court, county officials went ahead with a series of polling place closures — which one analysis found had more of an impact than Hurricane Matthew in depressing black voter turnout.
Some North Carolina Republicans admitted that these measures were supposed to hurt black voters. Here is what one longtime Republican consultant told William Wan at the Washington Post:
Longtime Republican consultant Carter Wrenn, a fixture in North Carolina politics, said the GOP’s voter fraud argument is nothing more than an excuse.
“Of course it’s political. Why else would you do it?” he said, explaining that Republicans, like any political party, want to protect their majority. While GOP lawmakers might have passed the law to suppress some voters, Wrenn said, that does not mean it was racist.
“Look, if African Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican, they would have kept early voting right where it was,” Wrenn said. “It wasn’t about discriminating against African Americans. They just ended up in the middle of it because they vote Democrat.”
North Carolina Republicans aren’t alone. States have taken on all sorts of strategies this year — from voter ID requirements to early voting cuts — to make it harder to vote, with a particular focus on minority voters who are more likely to vote Democrat.
Studies suggest that these voting restrictions typically have little to no effect on a national election. But when an election is very close — as the presidential, gubernatorial, and US Senate races in North Carolina are — voting restrictions could have a significant enough impact.
And now, North Carolina Republicans are bragging about how that impact could skew the election.