the-new-jim-crow_promo

SCSJ’s Daryl Atkinson discusses ‘The New Jim Crow’ on HuffPost Live

SCSJ Senior Attorney Daryl Atkinson appeared on HuffPost Live at 6:30 PM EST with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and HufffPost Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim to discuss Michelle Alexander’s critically acclaimed book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Colorblindness and the opportunities for criminal justice reform.

Alexander’s book reveals the phenomena of mass incarceration, over-criminalization, and the second class status of people with criminal records—America’s latest symptoms of unresolved structural racism and white supremacy—by exhaustively detailing the policies, practices, and political choices that buttressed our country’s latest system of racial caste. Thoroughly researched and deservedly praised, The New Jim Crow effectively lays bare “how historically both [Americans’] conscious and unconscious biases and anxieties have played out over and over again to birth these vast systems of social control.”*

The New Jim Crow’s thesis and concurrent call for criminal justice reform to redress racial injustice have become increasingly influential and galvanized a national debate about the efficacy of mass incarceration and the failed war on drugs. Moreover, the book has spurred many Americans to take new notice of the injustice of our current criminal justice system and its relationship to our unresolved racial history. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Alexander’s seminal work has birthed a grassroots movement that can support successful interventions and reforms championed by organizations like the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. SCSJ is currently spearheading a multidisciplinary campaign to eliminate racial bias in the criminal justice system, end mass incarceration, and remove unjust barriers faced by persons with criminal records.

You may watch the HuffPost Live program here:

ban the box

Ban the Box to increase tax revenue and reduce crime

‘Ban the Box’ to increase tax revenue and reduce crime

Guest Commentary

ENGAGE: Write a letter to the editor

For 1.6 million North Carolinians, the worst part of job searching is not the interview, but the moment they drop off the application. Nearly every employment application contains a small box on the front page that reads, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” By marking that box, applicants with a criminal record, no matter how old or irrelevant the crime, are effectively checking away their chance at a job. To increase tax revenue and reduce the likelihood that formerly incarcerated people will return to a life of crime, North Carolina needs to ban that box.

Ban the box initiatives follow a simple logic: Study after study show that the most effective way to reduce crime is not to build more prisons or hire more police officers, but to provide more jobs. Formerly incarcerated people who cannot secure jobs are more than twice as likely to return to criminal activity than their employed counterparts. Additionally, more people with jobs means stronger family ties, greater economic security, and increased tax revenue. A Philadelphia study on Ban the Box reported that hiring 100 formerly incarcerated people would add $1.9 million to income tax revenue, $770,000 to sales tax revenue and save $2 million per year in criminal justice costs incurred through recidivism.

“Criminal record history acts as a tremendous barrier to people providing food, shelter and clothing for their families,” says Daryl Atkinson, senior attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a group that spearheaded the Ban the Box movement in North Carolina.

Atkinson is himself a formerly incarcerated person.

“Ban the Box has been proven to help people get back to work and improve public safety because if people are able to take care of themselves, they don’t go back to crime. If we are serious about good allocation of tax dollars, we need to ensure that more people with records can get back to work and be productive members of society.”

Employers have a right to know if the person they are hiring has a criminal history. We wouldn’t want someone convicted of embezzlement to land a job as a comptroller. Ban the box doesn’t mean that employers lose the right to do a background check, it simply moves that step further down the job application process, after the applicant has had the opportunity to present his or her qualifications and skills.

“When you go to prison you are serving your debt to society, but the way the system is set up, that debt continues after you get out,” says Steven Manning, a Durham resident who served three and a half years in prison from 2001-2005 for possession of a firearm by a felon. “When companies deny you a job because of what you did in the past, that creates a revolving door back to prison. I can fill out 20-30 applications and not get a call back because of my record.”

The city and county of Durham, N.C., implemented Ban the Box initiatives in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Since then, the City of Durham has hired 700 times more people with criminal records than previous years. The County of Durham has seen a 300 percent increase. Importantly, not one of these new hires has been terminated due to illegal activity and neither has there been an increase in workplace crime. In fact 96 percent of applicants with criminal records were ultimately hired, even after background checks. This indicates that the majority of criminal history was determined to be irrelevant, either because the crime was unrelated to the job or occurred many years ago and the applicant has demonstrated rehabilitation.

It’s not often that we see an initiative that can reduce crime, strengthen families, and increase revenue, but Ban the Box accomplishes all those objectives and more. It’s about second chances and breaking the cycle of poverty and crime that grips so many generations. When one person secures a stable job, that person’s children are also more likely to finish school and gain secure employment.

With that in mind, the Second Chance Coalition, a statewide alliance of advocacy organizations, service providers, faith-based organizations, community leaders and interested citizens, have come to advocate for Ban the Box statewide.

“As a person who leads an organization that works with formerly incarcerated persons, I support the Ban the Box Initiative,” says Dennis Gaddy, executive director of Community Success Initiative, a non-profit that helps formerly incarcerated people reintegrate into society and a leader of the Second Chance Coalition. “Under the current system, when an individual checks the box, there are so many things we still don’t know. How long has it been since the crime was committed? What has that person accomplished since then? Ban the Box allows people a second chance at work — I’m for Second Chances!!”

To get involved in Ban the Box initiatives this year in North Carolina, visit ncjustice.org/?q=second-chance-alliance/nc-second-chance-alliance.: :

— Tessie Castillo is the communications and advocacy coordinator for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition. Learn more at nchrc.org.

gavel

SCSJ files a “friend of the court” brief with SCOTUS

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice yesterday filed an Amicus Curiae (“friend of the court”) brief with the United States Supreme Court in the case of City and County of San Francisco, et al. v. Teresa Sheehan, which is scheduled for oral argument on March 23, 2015.  The brief, filed on behalf of the Policy Council on Law Enforcement and Mental Illness, a South Carolina-based organization representing the interests of persons with mental illness, argues that the Americans with Disabilities Act should vigorously apply in arrest and civil commitment scenarios involving persons known by the police to be suffering from mental illness.  The Respondent, Teresa Sheehan, was shot five times, including once in the face, by San Francisco police officers who had responded to the group home in which she was living and forced entry into her locked second-story bedroom following a request from Sheehan’s social worker that she be taken into custody for a mental health assessment.

A copy of SCSJ’s brief can be read online here:
This post was written by SCSJ Staff Attorney Ian Mance.
labor union organizing

Participate in the National Survey on Black Women’s Labor Union Organizing and Leadership Experiences

National Survey on Black Women’s Labor Union Organizing and Leadership Experiences

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) is conducting a national survey of black women union members, organizers, leaders, and worker’s rights activists to learn more about their experiences in the labor movement. 

The survey is a companion piece to a forthcoming report and larger project, And Still I Rise: Black Women Labor Leaders’ Voices, Power, and Promise (May 2015). 

The objectives of the project are to: (1) surface best organizing practices and lessons learned from the incredible union election success rate of black women workers and organizers; (2) explore the value proposition of harnessing the organizing expertise of black women for advancing progressive economic policies of benefit to African Americans and working families, more generally; and, (3) make visible the expertise of black women workers, organizers and labor leaders so that their knowledge and ability can effectively inform strategies being formulated to advance the labor movement and economic justice. 

The responses to the survey will be kept will be kept confidential. While results will be included in a forthcoming report, no responses will be attributed, and no names will be shared. For additional information about the survey or broader project, please contact Marc Bayard at mbayard@ips-dc.org

The survey address is:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/blackwomeninlabor

The Survey will be open from January 15-February 15, 2015. 

Please share it widely with your friends, colleagues, and allies. 

Thank you. 

 

zero tolerance drug policies

Zero tolerance drug policies cannot alleviate poverty

This post is a response to Mayor William V. “Bill” Bell’s recent guest column, “First steps key in long journey to eliminate poverty.” 

Zero tolerance drug policies cannot alleviate poverty

Dear Mayor Bell,

Ray Gronberg e-mailed me last week asking me to respond to new language in the city’s anti-poverty initiative calling for a “zero tolerance” crackdown on drug activity in Northeast Central Durham. I gave him my honest reaction, which was that such a policy seemed counterproductive if the intent was to help lift people out of poverty. I had no idea that the short paragraph I sent him in reply would be framed as a story in and of itself.

As you know, it is an empirical fact that a person saddled with a criminal record for a low-level drug offense will have more difficulty finding employment and is thus more likely to remain in poverty. (In the last year, my office has assisted hundreds of people in Durham in seeking expungement of their criminal records in order to improve their employment prospects. A large percentage of those individuals were convicted of nothing more than minor non-violent drug offenses.) When the city says it intends to take even more of a “zero tolerance” approach to drugs in NEC Durham, I take that to mean even more aggressive efforts by the police to arrest anyone suspected of drug involvement and aggressive efforts from the District Attorney to prosecute. I think this is a mistake, as it will only expand the pool of people who are currently experiencing difficulty finding legitimate work opportunities.

In your column in the Herald-Sun this morning, you repeatedly questioned where I live and whether I am in a position to speak to these issues. For most of the past 5 years, I lived in Northeast Central Durham, within sight of the corner of Alston and Main, the intersection that Durham PD has labeled the “Bull’s Eye” of its aggressive drug enforcement efforts since 2007. Rarely a week went by that I did not see police officers pulling young black men out of their cars or placing them against walls, often quite forcefully, and patting them down for drugs.

This experience, in part, informed my decision to join the FADE coalition and support their organizing efforts against racial profiling and police misconduct in the community. The FADE coalition’s approach involved holding community meetings and listening sessions and taking its lead from the people living in those neighborhoods most saturated with police activity. These meetings began happening well before the anti-poverty initiative was ever announced. They informed the policy proposals, including written consent, that we brought to the City in October 2013.

I know from the hundreds of people I have met with over the last year and a half that to be young, male, and black in East Durham is to live in a state of regular surveillance and under the abiding suspicion of law enforcement. Though most focused on that demographic, this state of suspicion extends to others as well. I recently assisted a 50-year old black woman who was pulled out of her car on Alston Avenue, illegally searched, and accused of being a drug dealer all because officers saw her handing a plate of BBQ to a friend. This sort of thing does not happen on Ninth Street. In East Durham, however, it is a regular consequence of our “zero tolerance” approach.

Self-report drug use studies indicate that whites are using illegal drugs in this city at numbers equal to or greater than blacks. Yet there is no “zero tolerance” policy for Durham’s white neighborhoods. Police rarely kick in doors or drag people out of their cars in the areas surrounding Duke University. The same article that quoted my remarks also quoted the Duke dean of students saying that the university’s approach to drug offenses is “much more therapeutic than it [is] punitive.”

On this point, I believe Duke has it right. Rather than treating people involved in drug activity as our enemies, I believe we should hold them accountable for the harm they cause in their neighborhoods while also supporting them and trying to help them redirect their energy in a more positive direction. There are already multiple efforts ongoing in the City of Durham right now to do just that, including SpiritHouse’s Harm Free Zone initiative and Scott Holmes’ Restorative Justice Circles of Support program.

While recognizing that many people have different opinions on this issue, I believe the city would be better off supporting those efforts rather than doubling down on policies that are proven failures. We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. We have had forty years of zero tolerance and of letting police take the lead. Drugs are as available in our communities as they’ve ever been and our struggles with poverty are more intractable than ever. I believe it is time for a new approach, and that is why I responded to Ray’s questions in the way I did.

Respectfully,

Ian Andrew Mance
Soros Justice Attorney-Fellow
Southern Coalition for Social Justice
1415 W. NC Hwy. 54, Ste. #101
Durham, NC 27707

racial equaltiy

Stop Punishing People After They Have Been Released From Prison

Stop Punishing People After They Have Been Released From Prison

January 30, 2015 by Jeremy Haile

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

BillMoyers.com is proud to collaborate with TalkPoverty.org as we focus on poverty coverage over the next two weeks. Every day, visit BillMoyers.com to discover a new action you can take to help turn the tide in the fight against poverty.

In America, we punish people for being poor. But we’re also one of the few democracies that punishes people for being punished.

Consider the felony drug ban, which imposes a lifetime restriction on welfare and food stamp benefits for anyone convicted of a state or federal drug felony. Passed in the “tough on crime” era of the mid-1990s, the ban denies basic assistance to people who may have sold a small amount of marijuana years or even decades ago and have been law-abiding citizens ever since.

The Sentencing Project found that the legislation subjects an estimated 180,000 women in the 12 most impacted states to a lifetime ban on welfare benefits. Given racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system, banning benefits based on a prior drug conviction has brutally unfair consequences for people of color. For example, African-Americans are three to four times more likely to be arrested for drug offenses than whites, even though they use and sell drugs at roughly the same rates. A study by researchers at Yale Medical School found that denying food assistance to women with felony drug convictions compromises public safety.

The felony drug ban is just one of many collateral consequences that formerly incarcerated individuals face as they strive to re-enter society. Continuing to punish people after they have been punished is not only vindictive but also counterproductive to building safe and healthy communities.

The REDEEM Act, introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY), would lift the ban on benefits for some people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses and allow the sealing of criminal records. Learn more about the REDEEM Act today.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.

NC Voter ID Challenge

Judge to take several weeks to rule on NC voter ID challenge

— A Wake County judge plans to take two to three weeks to decide whether a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s voter ID law should be dismissed or proceed to trial this summer.

Mike Morgan, a Wake County Superior Court judge, briefed attorneys Friday after listening to several hours of arguments for and against the dismissal request.

The case is rooted in an overhaul of North Carolina election law that was adopted by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2013.

Under the sweeping changes, which are also being challenged in federal court, voters going to the polls in 2016 will have to show one of seven forms of photo identification to cast a ballot.

The League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and five female voters argue that lawmakers overstepped the bounds of the state Constitution when they added the ID requirement.

Attorneys for the state lawmakers countered that registered voters without one of the seven acceptable IDs are not shut out completely from voting.

Alec Peters, a special deputy attorney general in the N.C. Attorney General’s office, said the law still allows voters to cast a mail-in absentee ballot without an ID.

“As long as someone has the ability to vote by ballot, their right to vote has not been affected, infringed on,” Peters said. “They may not be able to go to the polls to vote, but they will not be denied the right to vote.”

Press Millen, an attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Raleigh, along with lawyers from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, countered that the first article of the state Constitution governs voter qualifications. That article was adopted in 1868 when North Carolina was under military rule in the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.

The qualifications set out there are minimal, Millen said. They are that a person be at least 18, a North Carolina resident and not a felon, unless rights of citizenship have been restored.

The North Carolina Constitution, Millen said, explicitly allows the General Assembly to “enact general laws governing the registration of voters,” and over the past 147 years pages and pages of laws related to that topic have been added to the General Statutes.

In contrast, he said, lawmakers cannot change voter qualifications without North Carolina voters, themselves, weighing in on the matter.

At issue in the Wake County courtroom Friday was whether requiring IDs at the poll should be considered a “qualification” for voting or an extension of the registration process, which lawmakers have the authority to tweak.

“We have a Constitution that says every qualified voter can vote,” Millen argued. “Then we have this new statute that says, ‘Oh, you have to do this other thing.’ ”

Millen said that if North Carolina is going to have a requirement that distinguishes which IDs are acceptable, then such a change to election law must be approved by voters as an amendment to the state Constitution.

Peters and Thomas A. Farr, an attorney with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart in Raleigh, argued that an ID requirement is no different from what voters do now – attest to poll workers that they are who they say they are by stating their name and address, then signing a form before being handed a ballot.

Republican lawmakers pushed for the requirement, contending that it would prevent voter fraud and build confidence in election results. But few cases of voter fraud have been prosecuted.

The NAACP and others who have sued the state at the federal level say the voter ID requirements are essentially unconstitutional poll taxes. They argue that many voters, often poor and minorities, don’t have the necessary documents or money to get photo IDs.

The challengers in Wake County court offered details about a voter they represented who did not have a birth certificate and was not born in a hospital. She has spent at least $100 and tried for almost a year to get one of the seven acceptable IDs, but she has been unsuccessful.

Farr argued that the state Division of Motor Vehicles would go to great lengths to try to verify someone’s identity for a state-issued card.

“They say they don’t have the documents, but they don’t say they can’t get them,” Farr said of the challengers.

George Eppsteiner, an attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, argued that forcing voters to present IDs would keep otherwise qualified voters from casting ballots at polling places.

“Maybe now that they have to get one to vote, they’ll figure out how to get one,” Farr said.

The state and federal cases are scheduled for trial in July.

Morgan ruled against changing the trial schedule for the case in his courtroom, but he said he would reconsider if firmer dates for the federal trial presented timing issues.

Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1

This press clipping, Judge to take several weeks to rue on NC voter id challenge, originally appeared here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/01/30/4517593_judge-hears-arguments-in-nc-voter.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy
The New Jim Crow

Durham City Wide Study of The New Jim Crow

These are tumultuous times for the criminal justice system. Huffington Post reports that exonerations of wrongfully convicted people are at an all time high. Meanwhile, Marissa Alexander has finally been released from a nightmare of incarceration resulting from firing a single warning shot at a known abuser. In the background, police are not being charged for killing the people they are sworn to protect -even when the murder is caught on tape as in the case of Eric Garner. The “Drug War” continues to separate families, racially profile young black men, and cost taxpayers billions of dollars to incarcerate people of color on simple drug possession charges.

If there is a single thing that can be said about “criminal justice” right now, it is that the system is woefully broken.

 Durham City Wide Study of The New Jim Crow

In the midst of this unrest, our partners at SpiritHouse are hosting a Durham City Wide Study of The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book examining race and the criminal justice system. Click here to learn more about the event and take part. Watch a preview of the book below.

 

What is being done to combat this situation?

As these injustices continue to pile up, communities across the U.S. are coming together to fight back.

  • The #BlackLivesMatter movement has raised awareness about our troubled criminal justice system and its apparent indifference to the lives of Black men, women, and children.
  • Organizations like SCSJ continue to hold Clean Slate Clinics to assist people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system to regain control of their lives by getting free legal assistance to obtain certificates of relief, expungements, and other documents necessary to overcome the massive barriers to finding employment, housing, and education with a criminal record.
  • Universities such as UNC are holding panels to discuss how white supremacy reinforces racism in academic settings.
  • Arizona State University has a new course examining white supremacy and how it reinforces racist systems in the U.S.
  • YOU can join the movement to reverse the tide by participating in Durham’s City-Wide Reading of The New Jim Crow. Act now!

List of Community Partners

Individuals: Trude Bennett, Martin Eakes, Irv Joyner, Alison Moy, Mary Moore, Vivian Timlic – NAACP Diane Standaert

Organizations: Action NC, Center for Documentary Studies (Staff), Central Park School for Children Equity Team, City Well Church of Durham, Communities in Partnership Old East Durham, Durham Anti-Racist White Caucus, Durham People’s Alliance, Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, FADE Coalition, First Presbyterian Church of Durham, Golden Belt Neighborhood, Muhammad Mosque No. 34, North Carolina Central University Black Law Student Association, North Carolina Public Defender Association Committee On Racial Equity, Project TURN, Self Help Credit Union, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

 

Post by SCSJ Deputy Director Shoshannah Sayers

voter id

The Fight Over Voter ID In NC Heads To State Court

A group that’s challenging North Carolina’s voting overhaul in federal court will take a different argument to state court Friday. The League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs are asking a judge in Raleigh to toss out a photo voter ID requirement that starts next year.

Alberta Currie has turned out for election after election in North Carolina since the 1950s. But she doesn’t have a photo ID and worries she doesn’t have the right documents to get one.

Currie is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit over the upcoming photo ID requirement. Attorney George Eppsteiner (of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice) represents her, the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs.

“The North Carolina constitution specifically describes what the requirements for voting are,” he says, “and it specifically says there cannot be additional requirements on the right to vote that are outside the state constitution.”

The League of Women Voters is also involved in a federal lawsuit over the ID requirement and other changes Republican lawmakers passed in 2013, like cutting early voting and getting rid of same-day registration.

Eppsteiner said regardless of what happens in that case, a state judge could rule on this case.

“We argue that the North Carolina constitution provides greater protections on the right to vote, and therefore this case is in state court,” he said.

Lawyers for the state have moved to have this case dismissed.

Josh Lawson is a spokesman for the North Carolina Board of Elections. He said the state constitution does say that people have to possess certain qualifications to vote.

“The article then goes on to include an empowerment for the legislature to make rules relating to the registration of individuals to vote,” he said.

It’ll be up to Judge Michael Morgan in Raleigh to decide if requiring a photo ID fits into that power.

Judge Morgan could rule after the hearing or let the lawsuit go to trial this summer. That’s also when the federal lawsuit is scheduled for trial.

This press clipping, The Fight Over Voter ID In NC Heads To State Court, originally appeared at WFAE.org on January 29, 2015.

voter ID laws

Critics of NC’s voter ID law to present their case in court

— Whether N.C. voters will have to show a photo ID in 2016 will depend on whether opponents can show why they shouldn’t have to.

That test begins Friday when critics of the 2013 election law overhaul argue that the ID requirement violates the North Carolina Constitution.

North Carolina residents and voting-rights organizations challenging the state’s voter ID requirement contend that voters, not lawmakers, hold the power to make such a change to election law. Voters, they say, would have to approve an amendment to the state Constitution.

In a hearing scheduled to take place in Wake County court on Friday, attorneys for the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and five female voters plan to argue that lawmakers overstepped the bounds of the state Constitution when they overhauled election laws in 2013.

Friday’s hearing focuses on the voter ID requirement scheduled to go into effect in 2016.

Voters will be required to show one of seven photo identification cards included on a list of acceptable IDs, according to the legislation. State-issued student ID cards are not on the list.

The NAACP and others who have sued the state asking for the 2013 election overhaul to be declared unconstitutional have pursued legal challenges on two tracks.

Arguments against

The challengers have filed lawsuits in federal court arguing the changes made in 2013 discriminate against African-Americans, Latinos and voters younger than 25.

North Carolina lawmakers who support the changes say voter IDs are needed to prevent election fraud. But there have been few cases of voter fraud.

A trial in federal court is scheduled for July.

While that case makes its way through the federal system, Press Millen, an attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Raleigh, and lawyers from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice will test different arguments in state court.

Millen contends that the first article of the state Constitution governs voter qualifications. That article was adopted in 1868 when North Carolina was under military rule in the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.

The qualifications set out there are minimal, said Millen, who represents the challengers. They require only a residency period, registration and that a person not be a felon, unless the rights of citizenship have been restored.

The North Carolina Constitution, Millen said, “explicitly allows the General Assembly to “enact general laws governing the registration of voters,” and over the past 147 years pages and pages of laws related to that topic have been added to the General Statutes.

In contrast, voter qualifications, he said, are strictly off limits.

Attorneys for the state plan to argue otherwise.

They hope to persuade Michael R. Morgan, the Wake County Superior Court judge tapped to preside over the case, to dismiss it.

Attorneys for the critics of voter ID plan to bring up several North Carolina cases – including one from 1992 and another from 1875 – in which the courts struck down laws related to qualifications for elected office.

Voter ID laws have been the subject of many court hearings across the country in recent years.

The laws date back to 1950, when South Carolina became the first state to request identification from voters at the polls. Photos, though, were not required. Any document with the name of the voter sufficed.

Recent movement to IDs

Since 2011, a dozen Republican-led states have passed strict voter ID requirements, though some have been blocked by courts.

Republicans have described the measures as needed to increase confidence in elections, but critics have described them as the modern equivalent of a poll tax, or fee for voting, designed to suppress turnout by Democratic voters.

Critics claim the ID requirements weigh more heavily on specific classes of voters – people of color, students, low-income voters and the elderly.

A 2013 study by the state Board of Elections found that several hundred thousand registered voters lacked photo IDs. The study attempted to match North Carolina voter registration records to records at the state Division of Motor Vehicles of driver’s licenses and state-issued photo ID cards.

This press clipping originally appeared on January 29, 2015 in the Raleigh News & Observer.

Ann Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1