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Amazon, Apple Invoked in Ballot Battle Over North Carolina Voter ID

Voters walk through a gauntlet of campaign volunteers

Requiring voters to present a photo ID before they cast a ballot made perfect sense to former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr until he read Ron Chernow’s biography of President Ulysses S. Grant.

North Carolina Republicans are probably hoping state voters won’t get their hands on that book until after the first Tuesday in November.

Orr still doesn’t agree that voter ID requirements are a way to suppress black voters. But after reading Chernow’s book, which, he wrote in the Charlotte Observer, includes “the horror and violence that descended upon blacks in the South attempting to participate in the most basic of democratic institutions — the right to vote,” Orr said he changed his mind about the wisdom of 21st-century voter ID laws.

“Maybe a photo voter ID isn’t all that bad, but I’m willing to say today after reading Chernow’s ‘Grant’: Let’s put this proposal on the shelf as simply the right thing to do,” Orr wrote.

A federal appeals court did just that in 2016. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected North Carolina’s voter ID law in an 83-page decision, which among other things said the legislation targeted “African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

North Carolina Republicans aren’t giving up. GOP legislative leaders proposed a constitutional amendment the first week of June that would again require voters to present a photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot. The proposed amendment will be offered to voters in November if both houses of the legislature agree by a supermajority.

However, the voter ID amendment was just the beginning. Republicans on Wednesday offered legislation that would scratch the final Saturday of early voting in North Carolina elections, a day popular with many of the state’s African-American voters. Also, GOP leaders told the New York Times they were working on a constitutional amendment that would reduce the power of Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, on the state board that controls elections.

Here comes the backlash; a civil rights group, Color Of Change, warned Apple and Amazon to stay away from North Carolina unless the voter ID constitutional amendment is squashed.

“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,” said Brandi Collins, a Color Of Change spokeswoman. “Tech corporations cannot pay lip service to inclusivity but turn a blind eye when communities of color are under attack. Apple and Amazon have a duty to ensure that black voters be given an equal voice in North Carolina’s democracy.”

North Carolina NAACP President T. Anthony Spearman said the General Assembly was conducting a “suppression session,” and vowed to join Color Of Change in opposing the voter ID amendment proposal.