10:50 a.m. August 20, 2013

Silver Lying: More On NC's Voter ID Laws

The fight over voting in the Old North State continues. I pointed out last week that the new arena is the now GOP-dominated board of elections, and indeed, there have been more fights since, especially about ending polling places at black colleges. Now the matter's drawing national attention.

But, as a silver lining, the law's proponents say voter IDs will be free, easily available to anyone at a DMV.

Not so fast:

The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles announced today that the mobile unit serving locations in northeastern North Carolina must undergo mechanical repairs and cannot make its scheduled stops for the foreseeable future.

"Foreseeable future" gets me, as if we're talking about a landscape altering natural disaster rather than auto repairs.

The northeast is my old stomping grounds, where I was born and raised. The towns the ID-mobile served might seem just another blip in this ongoing fight. So here's some context.

Windsor was devastated in a massive flood in 1999. It's 53% African-American, the seat of Bertie County, and was just featured on NPR because people who still remember literacy tests might not be able to vote.

Plymouth (63% African-American) had some of the worst segregation I've seen; back in the late '90s, the town was still split down the middle along racial lines.

I went to school in Currituck. It's in a bit better shape because of bedroom communities and tourism. But its low unemployment rate hides the fact that rural poverty's still very real. I worked there not that long ago for less than the current minimum wage, and that wasn't unusual.

Many of these places are majority-minority, many have median incomes well under $30,000. They've survived poverty, prejudice, floods, and neglect. The future's always been uncertain, but now their votes may be too.