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OpEd: The GOP Colluded With Racism to Hack North Carolina Election

While public testimonies of former intelligence agency directors and an Attorney General have provided made-for-TV drama in recent weeks, they have not yet furnished clarity as to whether a sitting President’s campaign helped Russia hack our 2016 electoral process.

Despite deep partisan divides, a consensus remains that hard evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia’s clear skullduggery would be unacceptable to Republicans as well as Democrats. With all eyes glued on Team Trump’s unfolding game of Russian roulette, however, many Americans appear to accept our homegrown hacking.

Over the past month, while we watched “As the Trump World Turns,” four separate U.S. Supreme Court decisions made clear that Republicans in North Carolina intentionally subverted democracy through what the Court affirmed as a “racial gerrymander” and a voter suppression law that it said “almost surgically targets African Americans.”

Anyone outraged by the potential collusion of Team Trump should examine these final decisions from our highest court. Without the race-based election hacking that the Court now definitely outlaws, a Trump campaign would have never been possible. What’s more, our seven-year struggle to win this fight offers a deeply divided nation a clear way forward.

Image: The great seal of North Carolina is seen outside the state legislature building in Raleigh, North Carolina, May 9, 2016.
The great seal of North Carolina is seen outside the state legislature building in Raleigh, North Carolina, May 9, 2016. Al Drago / CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

The Court considered two separate issues in these four cases, all of which grew out of challenges to the far-right takeover of North Carolina’s legislature in 2010. Following the 2008 election, when North Carolina gave its fifteen electoral votes to Barack Obama, extremist PACs followed Republican businessman Art Pope’s lead and invested unprecedented sums of money in state legislature races.

Winning a majority, they quickly redrew both the state legislative districts and the U.S. Congressional districts in their favor; they deliberately used race as their primary criterion. “Stacking and packing” Black voters in as few districts as possible, extremists who had hijacked the Republican party consolidated their power through gerrymandering.

Voters should choose their representatives, not vice versa, but the courts have upheld some forms of gerrymandering as a political tool. Racial gerrymandering, however, violates the protections won in long and bloody struggles for the 14th and 15th amendments and the Voting Rights Act.

For seven years a coalition of citizens, advocacy organizations, and faith communities made the case in the streets and in court that the all-white caucus that drew North Carolina’s 2011 voting maps were guilty of brazen racial gerrymandering.

In Cooper v. Harris, a majority that included Justice Clarence Thomas, held not only that race had been the “predominant consideration” in drawing the districts but also clarified that states cannot get around the constitutional prohibition against racial gerrymandering by simply using party as a proxy for race.

This May 22nd ruling on North Carolina’s congressional districts led the court to similar conclusions about challenges to our state legislative districts in two other cases on successive Mondays. But before these decisions, on May 15th, the Court had rejected a request for cert filed by the Republican-led legislature in NC NAACP v McCrory, letting stand the Fourth Circuit’s decision that struck down North Carolina’s 2013 “monster” voter suppression law. In this decision, the Court addressed a second crucial issue of domestic election hacking: voter suppression.

After North Carolina’s extremist majority had cheated themselves into a supermajority in 2012, the Court’s 2013 Shelby decision stripped away key protections of the Voting Rights Act, opening the door for a state with a long, documented history of racialized voter suppression to pass new voting laws without federal pre-clearance.

The omnibus bill North Carolina passed included a stringent voter ID requirement, a reduction in early voting, and elimination of same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting safeguards, and pre-registration for young people.

We organized “Moral Mondays” as a weekly protest outside our statehouse; the Republican leadership ordered the arrests of over 1200 people for refusing to leave when an unconstitutionally constituted legislature insisted that they did not want to hear our objections.

After four long years of Moral Mondays, we find it amusing irony, if not heavenly humor, that the Supreme Court ruled four Mondays in a row that racial gerrymandering and race-based voter suppression are unconstitutional and intolerable attacks on American democracy.

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As our Moral Mondays argued all along, this is not a Republican or Democrat issue. The integrity of our electoral process is a fundamental moral issue, and there is a sinister connection between racist voting laws and abuse of the poor. In raw numbers, the people who continue to be hurt most by this systemic racism are poor white people.

If Trump operatives colluded with Russian agents to hack the 2016 election, they did not do so because their opposition was weak, but because they knew the majority of Americans opposed their policies.

The same is true of the domestic assault on democracy that we have experienced in North Carolina. Extremists didn’t hack our elections because the fusion coalition that demonstrated its political power in 2008 was weak. They attacked us because we are strong.

Refusing to stand down, we have moved beyond the stale rhetoric of left versus right to build a multiracial, multicultural, multigenerational coalition committed to the common good and a democracy that works for all. This is the kind of resistance that can transform the politics that make Trump possible.

William J. Barber, II is President of Repairers of the Breach and author of The Third Reconstruction.

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