North Carolina counties say Supreme Court decision won’t harm voting rights for minorities

From slavery, to equal rights under the law, North Carolina has come a long way from the days of poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses.

“The threshold for blacks voting prior to passage of the Voting Rights Act was so high that most didn’t even attempt to try and vote,” said Leonard Lanier, the assistant curator for the Museum of the Albemarle.

Lanier gave NewsChannel 3 a little history lesson about life before the 1965 law, and how its pre-clearance provision has helped push Northeastern North Carolina to finally hold fair elections for all.

While Virginia, as a state, had to submit all new voting laws to the Justice Department for approval, only 40 counties in North Carolina were held to the law, with the majority in Northeastern North Carolina.

“The reason this area is home to the most pre-clearance counties is because this is the area of the state with the highest African-American population,” said Lanier.

Now that the pre-clearance provision has been struck down by the Supreme Court, what will that mean for black voters?

“I actually think very little will change,” said Mike Cox, the attorney for Pasquotank County.

Pasquotank hasn’t had the Justice Department object to one of their laws in more than 25 years.

“Other than the formal request, everything we have been doing, we will still do,” said Cox.

Next door in Camden, county manager Mike Renshaw says their recent record is just as clean, only asking the Justice Department to move polling locations in order to create more space.

“There hasn’t been any issue with minority members not having polling places accessible,” said Renshaw. “Things have changed in Camden County, for the positive.”

Still, historians say without federal enforcement, ensuring equality has never been a guarantee in the south.

“I am an optimist, and hope this doesn’t mean return to voting issues of past, however because of my historical training, I’m wary of where this could possibly lead,” said Lanier.

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