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Alberta Currie

Alberta Currie

Meet Alberta Currie, the lead plaintiff in SCSJ’s litigation challenging North Carolina’s strict Voter ID requirement.

Voting is a matter of pride for Alberta Currie. Since the age of 21 in 1956, she consistently has voted in every election. It was her grandmother who instilled in her the importance of never missing a voting day. But due to a voter ID provision in the state’s new Monster Voter Suppression Law, she may not be able to cast a ballot on Election Day in the coming years.

Currie, a 78-year-old native of Robeson County who now lives in Hope Mills, does not have a photo ID and cannot obtain one in North Carolina without a birth certificate. She doesn’t have a birth certificate because she was born at home to a midwife during the Jim Crow days of the segregated South.

On August 13, 2013, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court – with Currie as the lead plaintiff – challenging the new voter ID requirement of the law. The suit was filed on behalf of the N.C. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and several individual voters, including Alberta Currie.

After the case was combined with another case, North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory, arguments were made in federal court.  On July 29, 2016, the Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals found that the law was not only unconstitutional but targeted African-American voters “with almost surgical precision.” As a result of that ruling, the 2016 general election in North Carolina proceeded with two weeks of early voting, same-day voter registration, and no requirement for photo ID.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice supports the rights of all voters – particularly those like  Alberta Currie and an estimated 318,000 other North Carolinians – who may completely lose the ability to vote due to changes in voting laws. SCSJ is currently engaged in voting rights litigation in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and the District of Columbia. Litigating the current onslaught of repressive voting laws requires a team of experts, extensive travel, filing fees, and numerous other expenses in addition to regular operating costs. Your donation continues the fight for the voting rights of people like Alberta Currie. Please consider making a recurring donation to help sustain our voting rights litigation year-roundClick here to support SCSJ’s work!

Post by SCSJ Deputy Director Shoshannah Sayers

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North Carolina State Court Allows Photo ID Challenge to Proceed to Trial

This afternoon, Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan ruled that a challenge to North Carolina’s photo ID requirement for voting will proceed to trial in July 2015.  In ruling on the respective motions for judgment on the pleadings (where no evidence is allowed to be taken into account), Judge Morgan indicated that the case needed to be presented with evidence at trial this summer before ruling on the constitutionality of the law, as to Plaintiffs’ equal protection claims and unconstitutional qualification for voting claim.

“On behalf of our clients, we look forward to trying this case in July and demonstrating the disenfranchising effect of the photo ID requirement,” said Southern Coalition for Social Justice Staff Attorney George Eppsteiner.

“We’re going to show how this law has a negative impact on voters of color and voters that do not have the resources to obtain an ID,” said Melvin Montford, Executive Director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute of North Carolina.

“The League of Women Voters is pleased that we will have our day in Court in July,” said Brenda Rogers, Director of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. “As in other states, we are confident that the evidence will show how photo ID requirements actually prevent access to voting.”

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) represents plaintiffs including Alberta Currie, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the NC A. Phillip Randolph Institute, and other individual plaintiffs in this litigation.  Pressly Millen of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice also represents Ms. Currie and other individual plaintiffs.

 

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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.

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“We Couldn’t Eat The Birth Certificate” – the burden of Voter ID for people living in poverty

On September 3, 2014 in Texas, witnesses discussed the hardships of obtaining the state’s “free” voter ID.

According to MSNBC, “Sammie Louise Bates moved to Texas from Illinois in 2011. She wanted to vote last year, but all she had was an Illinois identification card, and under Texas’s strict voter ID law, that wasn’t acceptable. To get a Texas ID, Bates needed a birth certificate from her native Mississippi, which cost $42. That was money that Bates, whose income is around $321 a month, didn’t have.”

“I had to put $42 where it would do the most good,” Bates, who is African-American, testified Tuesday [9/3/14], the first day of the trial over Texas’s ID law. “We couldn’t eat the birth certificate.”

Not everything is bigger in Texas.

Much like North Carolina’s so-called “monster” voter suppression law (rolled out in part this year and which will require a voter to present a valid photo-ID beginning in 2016), Texas’ voter-ID law went into effect shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in its 2013 Shelby County decision. By that time, the Texas law had already been approved, but a federal judge prevented it from rolling out until protections offered by the full Voting Rights Act were eliminated and the law was allowed to go into effect.

In North Carolina, lawmakers in the General Assembly bided their time until just after the Voting Rights Act was effectively hobbled before unveiling their full voter ID bill. At a whopping 49 pages, it is one of the strictest, most comprehensive and regressive in the nation. The bill breezed through both houses in July 2013 and was signed into law by the Governor a month later. The following day the Southern Coalition for Social Justice challenged the North Carolina monster bill in both State and Federal courts. The federal case is League of Women Voters et al v. North Carolina, and the state case is Alberta Currie et al v. North Carolina.

There’s no such thing as a “free” voter-ID

The Alberta Currie case raises many of the same concerns addressed by today’s testimony in the Texas Voter ID case – how do people of limited financial means manage to jump through all of the hoops necessary to obtain even a “free” state-issued photo ID? The named plaintiff, Alberta Currie, is an example of someone who faces insurmountable barriers to obtaining a photo id. Currie is a 78-year-old native of Robeson County who now lives in Cumberland County. She doesn’t have a photo ID and cannot obtain one in North Carolina without a birth certificate. Therein lies the rub. Alberta Currie doesn’t have a birth certificate; she was born at home to a midwife and was never issued one.

No birth certificate? No problem, says the State of North Carolina: the law allows for a work-around for folks like Ms. Currie who don’t have any way to obtain one. All she has to do is have a blood relative attest to being present at her birth. But as she is in her late 70’s, Ms. Currie is running short of living relatives who can so attest. Her one remaining sister lives out of state, has dementia and is thus no longer mentally fit to do so legally.

Ms. Currie is just one example of the multitudes of North Carolina voters who may not have access to state-issued photo ID. In 2012, 318,644 registered North Carolina voters lacked DMV-issued photo IDs with names that matched those found on their voter registration cards according to data collected and posted by the State Board of Elections. A review of this data showed that North Carolina’s voting law will disproportionally burden African Americans, women, young people, and the very poor. Of the nearly 319,000 voters in North Carolina who may not have acceptable identification under the new law, the percentage of white voters exceeds that of African Americans yet African Americans are nearly twice as likely to lack eligible voter-ID in 2016.

Alberta Currie has paid taxes her entire working life, has a social security number, birth certificates for her two children born here, and has produced reliable  and convincing evidence that she is indeed who she says she is. Even if that weren’t the case, however, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves, “how many hoops a person should have to jump through to be deemed worthy to vote?”

We contend the North Carolina Constitution has already described exactly what may be required of a voter to prove they are “worthy” to cast a ballot, and that it was written to guarantee that Alberta Currie and people like her can exercise their fundamental right to vote.

Post by SCSJ Deputy Director Shoshannah Sayers and Researcher Sarah Moncelle

 

NC gets tough on voter ID laws, but at whose expense?

This video of SCSJ client Alberta Currie originally aired on Tuesday, August 13 2013 on NBC Nightly News. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3032619/ns/NBCNightlyNews/#52748601

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice supports the rights of all voters – particularly those like our client Alberta Currie who may completely lose the ability to vote due to changes in voting laws. SCSJ is currently engaged in voting rights litigation in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and the District of Columbia. Litigating the current onslaught of repressive voting laws requires a team of experts, extensive travel, filing fees, and numerous other expenses in addition to regular operating costs. Your donation continues the fight for the voting rights of people like Alberta Currie. Please consider making a recurring donation to help sustain our voting rights litigation year-roundClick here to support SCSJ’s work!

Alberta Currie will no longer be able to vote under new NC Voting Laws

Alberta Currie will no longer be able to vote under new NC Voting Laws

Voting is a matter of pride for Alberta Currie.

Since the age of 21 in 1956, she consistently has voted in every election. It was her grandmother who instilled in her the importance of never missing a voting day. But due to a voter ID provision in the state’s new GOP-sponsored voting law signed by N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory Monday, she may not be able to cast a ballot on Election Day in the coming years.

Currie, a 78-year-old native of Robeson County who now lives in Hope Mills, does not have a photo ID and cannot obtain one in North Carolina without a birth certificate. She doesn’t have a birth certificate because she was born at home to a midwife during the Jim Crow days of the segregated South.

On August 13, 2013, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court – with Currie as the lead plaintiff – challenging the new voter ID requirement of the law. The suit was filed on behalf of the N.C.A. Philip Randolph Institute, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and several individual voters, including Alberta Currie.

Your support protects the estimated 319,000 North Carolina voters like Alberta Currie who will not be able to vote due to new photo ID requirements. Please make a recurring donation today. Click here to support SCSJ’s work

NC Voter ID law challenged in state court

Hillsborough, N.C. – The N.C. A. Philip Randolph Institute, League of Women Voters of North Carolina, and several individual voters have filed a lawsuit challenging the photo ID requirement of North Carolina’s voter suppression law signed by Gov. Pat McCrory. The suit specifically targets provisions of the law that require a state-issued photo ID in order for an eligible voter to cast a ballot. It seeks to stop North Carolina from enforcing these provisions, because they create a new qualification for voters not already contained in the North Carolina Constitution, they unduly burden the right to vote and they discriminate against African-American voters, all in violation of the North Carolina Constitution.

In January of 2013, the State Board of Elections released a study that revealed that more than 600,000 registered voters lack photo ID. The Board matched voter registration records against DMV records and found that as many as 612,955 voters could not be matched with a DMV-issued drivers’ license or photo ID card. The General Assembly itself estimated in a note to H.B. 589, an earlier version of the voter ID law, that between 232,502 and 364,393 voters will lack acceptable photo ID by 2017. These estimates are between 3.6% and 5.6% of North Carolina’s registered voters.

One of the plaintiffs, Alberta Currie, is the Great-Granddaughter of slaves. She, her parents and her children all worked picking cotton and tobacco in the fields of Robeson County NC. She is the mother of seven, 78 years old and does not have a birth certificate because she was born at home. She has voted consistently since she first became eligible to vote in 1956. She does not have a photo ID and cannot obtain one in North Carolina without a birth certificate. She and her family consider it a matter of personal dignity to be able to go in person and vote.

According to Alberta Currie, “my mother always told me not to miss a voting day.  If I can’t vote in person like everyone else it wouldn’t feel fair; it would seem like my vote didn’t count.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several North Carolinians who will face substantial hardship under the law, and on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, whose efforts to promote voter participation in future elections will be severely hampered if the measure takes effect.  All of the Plaintiffs are represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the individual plaintiffs are also represented by Press Millen, a lawyer who has litigated numerous cases under the State Constitution.

The case, Alberta Currie et al. v. North Carolina, was filed in Orange County Superior Court. The complaint is available here: Currie v NC.