Raleigh, NC–Forget FBI Director Comey and his tragic/comedy of errors. Forget the former Far Right Congressman who said he’s going to pick up his musty old musket if Hillary Clinton gets elected and start a “revolution.” The revolution is here, it’s happening at the polls, it’s peaceful, and it will not be postponed.
Sunday, October 30, was the last day of Sunday voting in North Carolina, in an Early Voting period—also known as One-Stop Absentee Voting—that stretches over 17 days, from October 20 through Saturday, November 5. This year’s Early Voting in North Carolina, despite repeated attempts by the Republican controlled General Assembly and Governor Pat McCrory to kill it completely or greatly limit it, is showing signs of exceeding the pace of 2008 when Barack Obama carried the State by some two votes per precinct.
As of today, according to NCVoteTracker.com, 1.6 million North Carolinians have already voted, with 44% of them being Democrats, 31% Republicans and 24% Unaffiliated (or independent). Fifty-five percent of the votes have been cast by women, and with nearly 30% of the totals coming in from the heavily Democratic Counties of Wake (Raleigh), Mecklenberg (Charlotte), Durham and Orange (Chapel Hill).
One specific Wake County polling place about to push through the roof of the record vote it set in 2008 is the historic Chavis Community Center, off of Martin Luther King Blvd, in downtown Raleigh. Chavis, established in 1938 as a segregated recreation area for the City’s African American Community, is a living, breathing monument to resiliency and determination. Named for John Chavis, a free, Black 19th Century preacher, the Community Center has been the lifeblood of its community, with a history of voting dependably Democratic. That history prompted the Republican controlled Wake County Board of Elections to try to shut down the Chavis Center as an Early Voting polling place, making it more difficult for African-Americans to get to the polls. In North Carolina, 74% of African Americans cast their ballots during the early voting period in the last Presidential election.
Backed by the NAACP, the Wake County Voter Education Coalition and other good government and voting rights groups, community members packed Board of Election hearings and fought hard to preserve the Chavis Center as an Early Voting site. Their arguments paralleled those of the Federal three judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down the 2013 State Law requiring photo IDS and eviscerating early voting on the grounds that the “restrictions targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
“Right now, we are poised to surpass the vote for 2008 at this particular site, “said Jerome Brown, Chairman of the Wade County Voter Education Coalition. “Between now and next Saturday (the last day of Early Voting in North Carolina), we’ll put enough distance between us and the totals from 2008 that people will be saying ‘it’ll take a lot to beat 2016!”
Brown spoke as a long-line of voters wound around the sprawling Chavis Community Center complex, to be sure to get their vote in early. A veteran of voting rights struggles in North Carolina, Brown believe that the efforts to shut down the African American vote has made the community more determined than ever before.
“When we opened the polls at 9:00 am, we had people waiting outside from 7:00 am in the morning, “Brown said. “They did not want to be shut out. You can only push people so far, for a certain amount of time. This year has been a wake-up call for our community. This is their time to respond, and they are responding.”
Brown’s observations were reinforced by a middle-aged ,white male voter, wearing a tee shirt bearing one line: “McCrory is a Moron.”
“The strategy to keep the turnout down doesn’t work,” he said, asking to remain as unidentified as he was unaffiliated. “I have lived in Raleigh all my life, and I’m telling you people want to vote. Nothing will hold them back. They are passionate about their right to vote, and about this election.”
“North Carolina is going to break all records this year,” added Brown. “You just don’t mess with people’s right to vote.”