The advocacy group Color of Change is calling on Amazon and Apple to drop North Carolina from consideration for their new locations in response to a bill introduced by House Republicans on Thursday.
The bill proposes to amend the state constitution to require that voters present photo identification at the polls. If it passes, voters will decide in November whether to add the following paragraph to the constitution: “Every person offering to vote in person shall present photo identification before voting in the manner prescribed by law.”
The bill does not specify what forms of ID would qualify for voting. Those details would later be filled in by the General Assembly. Brandi Collins-Dexter, senior campaign director for media, democracy, and economic justice at Color of Change, warns that the vague language “makes it even more dangerous,” saying the law would disenfranchise large swaths of voters, including black and brown voters, women, and transgender voters.
of Change has partnered with North Carolina-native musician William Matthews to protest the proposal. Matthews said in a press release that the bill is “North Carolina’s decision to target Black voters in order to maintain power and win elections.”
The group is asking Apple and Amazon to drop their consideration of the Triangle for their new headquarters to put economic pressure on lawmakers trying to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot. As Democratic strategist Thomas Mills argued in a blog post, if the amendment makes the ballot, it’s almost certain to pass, and if Democrats base their November campaigns around opposition to voter ID, “it will fire up the Republican base”—which is exactly what the General Assembly’s leaders want.
Collins-Dexter said in a press release, “It is irresponsible and negligent for Apple and Amazon to even consider North Carolina as the site for their new headquarters if this law moves forward.” She also pointed to the successful use of corporate pressure to sway lawmakers with the repeal of HB 2, commonly known as “the bathroom bill,” saying “corporate actors can put their hands on the scale for justice.”
North Carolina is on the list of twenty sites being considered for Amazon’s second headquarters, and Apple has reportedly met with North Carolina lawmakers about locations in Research Triangle Park. The tech giants could bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment to the state, but Collins-Dexter says “tech corporations cannot pay lip service to inclusivity but turn a blind eye when communities of color are under attack.”
Senator Dan Blue, the chamber’s top Democrat, told the
this morning that Color of Change’s campaign is wrongheaded—“cutting off your nose to spite your face.” While the renewed voter-ID push caught him off-guard—he errantly thought that, after a federal court struck down the state’s voter ID law, which was passed in 2013, in 2016, saying it targets African Americans “with almost surgical precision,” Republicans had learned their lesson—he argues that discouraging major investments in the state’s urban areas plays “right into the hands of those forces that want to restrict the ability of urban areas to affect the policies of the state.
Because the bill seeks to amend the constitution, it will need to pass in both the House and the Senate with a three-fifths majority to go on the ballot. The Republicans have the supermajorities in both the House and the Senate to do just that.
House Speaker Tim Moore argues that “this commonsense measure to secure the integrity of our elections system is supported by the vast majority of North Carolinians who know protecting our democracy should be one of lawmakers’ highest priorities.”
The latter part—that it is supported by the majority of residents—is probably true, but the former, that it is common sense, is more debatable. Last year, the state Board of Elections found that 508 people (roughly 0.01 percent of the North Carolinians who voted) voted illegally in the 2016 election; voter ID would have stopped just one of them.
While voter ID doesn’t do much to combat the mostly imaginary problem of voter fraud, research shows that it does benefit Republicans by suppressing minority turnout. A study reported by three political scientists in The Washington Post last year found that in states with strict voter ID laws, the turnout gap between white and Latino voters is 13.2 percent during both primary and general elections; and 5.1 percent and 11.6 percent during general and primary elections, respectively, among white and black voters.
As the authors conclude: “All else equal, when strict ID laws are instituted, the turnout gap between Republicans and Democrats in primary contests more than doubles from 4.3 points to 9.8 points. Likewise, the turnout gap between conservative and liberal voters more than doubles from 7.7 to 20.4 points. By instituting strict voter ID laws, states can alter the electorate and shift outcomes toward those on the right. Where these laws are enacted, the influence of Democrats and liberals wanes and the power of Republicans grows.”