NPR Presents: Voting Rights Or Wrongs?

Oct 30, 2014

NPR's Michel Martin hosted a discussion on voting rights with Mecklenburg County Board of Elections director Michael G. Dickerson, Janai Nelson of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, Hans A. van Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation and NPR correspondent Pam Fessler.
Credit Jennifer Lang

North Carolina's new voting law has been a hot topic of discussion—and litigation—this election year. 

The law reduced the number of early voting days, eliminated same-day registration during early voting, and did away with the counting of out-of-precinct ballots. In 2016, voter ID is scheduled to take effect. 

This week, the law was the subject of a public forum hosted by NPR's Michel Martin. We'll now hear some voices from that event. You'll hear from the four panelists first. 

They were Janai Nelson of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, Hans A. van Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, NPR correspondent Pam Fessler and Mecklenburg County Board of Elections director Michael G. Dickerson. They'll be followed by comments from the audience. 

"We all say that everyone should vote and I'm not sure that we all say that and we certainly aren't saying it in the actions that we see particularly here in North Carolina, where we have laws that are deliberately restricting people from voting." - Janai Nelson, NAACP 

"This idea that we have low turn-out, why, because of procedural difficulties? I'm sorry, but again, the Census Bureau survey data on non-voters shows that is not the case. The vast majority of folks say the reason they don't vote is because they're not interested in politics, they're not interested in the candidates. That's a cultural issue."   Hans A. van Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation  

"There's some evidence that some of the changes in the voting rules have energized people to actually show up and vote, because they're like, 'I'm not going to let them take my vote away.' But that doesn't sort of address the issue of whether it's right or wrong to make those changes."   NPR correspondent Pam Fessler   

"This election coming up in Mecklenburg County, where we're at now, we're probably looking at a 45 percent turnout. Fifty percent would be great. We've already matched the seven days that were cut out as of [Sunday]." Mecklenburg County Board of Elections director Michael G. Dickerson

Charles Jones, 77, of Charlotte, talks to Michel Martin about his experience helping register African-American voters in Terrell County, Georgia in the 1950s and 1960s.
Credit Tasnim Shamma

"The panic right now is acute. And yes, you are disenfranchising a particular segment of the population: people who cannot get out, they do not have a driver's license, they don't have the money to have a car, they're physically unable to get themselves there. And there has always been a network in Charlotte—a very, kind, loving network of church people and others who get people to the polls. And now there just are not enough people to get those people there because of the cut in the time that you can get there." - Anita Hill, audience member

"They can take away your property, they can take away a whole lot of things. But there's nothing that the legislature has done that says we take away the right to vote. And November 4 is still available for people to vote who can't vote early. There's nothing unreasonable about asking people to vote in a certain timeframe." - Dr. Ada Fisher, North Carolina Republican National Committeewoman 

"If the Supreme Court, in their damn Citizen United thing, which gave such power to money and they're limiting the rights of the little person, no wonder people don't vote! People don't feel like their voice matters." - Deb Darby, audience member

"As long as you have Democrats and Republicans, you'll always have these arguments, so our goal is to administer and make sure that everybody is fairly treated and fairly respected when they get to our voting booths." Mecklenburg County Board of Elections director Michael G. Dickerson