Rev. William Barber: From a Pulpit In Battleground North Carolina, a Civil Rights Warrior Thunders a Call to Arms

The Rev. William Barber at the Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in Goldsboro, N.C., on Sept. 4, 2016. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
The Rev. William Barber at the Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in Goldsboro, N.C., on Sept. 4, 2016. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

The Rev. William J. Barber, his voice transmitting more resolve than rage, was describing what he saw as the latest outrage in his ongoing battle with the state of North Carolina over voting rights: An African American woman, 100 years old, was removed from the voter rolls in Beaufort County because a letter sent to her home was returned by the U.S. Postal Service as “undeliverable.”

She wasn’t the only one. The registrations of thousands of voters, most of them black, were canceled just weeks before Tuesday’s election. In this contentious election season, North Carolina has emerged as the center of the battle over voting rights, ballot access and voter suppression, and Barber, who is president of the North Carolina NAACP, is the commanding general and a commanding presence on his side of the battle.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tied in most polls of North Carolina voters and are fighting hard to claim the state’s 15 votes in the electoral college.

The state NAACP filed a lawsuit last Monday alleging that state elections officials and their county counterparts in Beaufort, Moore and Cumberland counties wrongly removed voters from the rolls. The lawsuit asserted that the removals were carried out when conservative activists challenged the voters’ eligibility on the grounds of residency after letters mailed to their addresses on record were returned.

The lawsuit asserted that not only was it improper to cancel a voter’s registration on the basis of a single returned piece of mail, but also declared that it is against the law to undertake systematic purges within 90 days of a federal election.

On Friday, a federal judge agreed and ordered the voters restored to the rolls. In July, a federal appeals court struck down the state’s voter ID law, saying that it “targets African Americans with almost surgical precision,” but voting rights advocates say that state and county elections officials have continued to impose rules the rights advocates see as intended to disenfranchise black voters. Barber thinks that is why early voting turnout among black voters in this election cycle was lower than in 2012. Early voting in North Carolina ended Saturday.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The Washington Post
Vanessa Williams