The news that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Voter ID law was an enormous victory for many here in North Carolina. And the public system may be a major beneficiary both directly and indirectly.
What makes this decision even more historical is that it happens in time for the November elections. An appeal process would almost be impossible to complete before Election Day. So now NC will have to reinstitute full early voting periods, same day registration, and the ability for people to vote in a different precinct.
NC is a purple state. It went for Obama in 2008, and barely went for Romney in 2012. In 2012 Romney won the state by less than 100,000 voters. In 2008, Obama won NC by less than 17,000 votes. The race between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan was very close. And now we have a governor’s race, another senatorial race, races for all House seats and all General Assembly seats.
A recent Reuter’s study estimated that around 29,000 voters would have been compromised by the current version of NC’s Voter ID law. Most all of them would have been poor minorities.
If one looks at the demographics of those who tend to support the Democratic Party as opposed to the GOP, it is not hard to see that democrats are the clear beneficiaries of the Voter ID law being struck down by the court system.
So why could this ruling have such a huge effect on schools? Actually, there are many reasons, but they all center on the fact that most of the changes that have hurt public schools in the eyes of so many have been designed and enacted by current GOP members. Due process elimination, graduate degree pay bumps removed, disproportionate “average” pay raises, unregulated charter school growth, Opportunity Grants, and the establishment of an Achievement School District are just a few of the GOP ordained “reforms” of the past four years.
So what specifically may happen and why? First, the fact that more people will be able to vote is foremost. Many more minorities in rural areas that have been GOP strongholds may now come out in droves, not just because they can vote with less restrictions, but now with a new lease on exercising their constitutional rights they will make sure to do so. And the opportunity to make a statement against those who supported the very Voter ID law that was struck down may be inviting.
Secondly, the timing of the ruling now puts North Carolina in more of a spotlight regionally and nationally. While the governor’s race has been in the national news with HB2, this ruling certainly puts more cameras on how North Carolinians will respond. With Citizens United allowing for major money to pour into candidates’ coffers, this ruling may loosen the purse strings even more. In the last week both Clinton and Trump have campaigned here. Kaine and Pence will be back soon. If political “tourism” was an industry, we would be leading the nation.
Next, with more people voting, candidates will need to try and sway their votes. And while not all citizens are directly affected by the Duke Energy coal ash spills or fracking, all citizens do have a stake in public education. It is the strongest common denominator that binds communities. Even if people do not have children in the public schools, they certainly pay taxes to support them. Public education will be put into the conversation even more.
Lastly, the overturning of the Voter ID law is another example of how this current administration has pushed the boundaries of constitutionality. There was the overturning of the teacher tenure laws. There was a court fight for the Opportunity Grants. There is the fallout from HB2 and the impending lawsuits to strike it down. They all are GOP initiatives. With public schools the largest employer in over 60 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and at least the second largest employer in over 90, it might be a safe bet that teachers and those who are close to them will vote in November. People who support LGBT rights will certainly come to the ballot box. People concerned with the environment will come out.
But no matter what prognosticators may say or polls may communicate, this ruling will galvanize the fight for public schools even more. It certainly has afforded many more people a way to make their voices heard.
Those people have a stake in public schools.