Educate, organize and mobilize: As we draw nearer to D-day, November 4, 2014, the political parties, candidates and pressure groups are identifying their issues, slates and strategies to win. My title to this week’s commentary makes a gross understatement, judges matter. The contest between Judge Ola Lewis and Judge Mark Martin for Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court is second only to the race for US Senate on the ballot this November. This week, among other things we’re going to highlight details between candidates, Judge Ola Lewis and Judge Mark Martin. They are going head to head in their efforts to be elected the Supreme Court Chief Justice for North Carolina. This is a unique contest for several reasons and it is a very important contest.
Without giving exhaustive examples of the roles that judges have played the fight for our right to vote, I’m going to touch on a few decisions that demonstrate the importance of judges in our Campaign to Defeat Voter Suppression.
Let’s start with the June 25, 2013 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in the voter rights case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General. It is the decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and among other things helped paved the way for the most stringent suppression enactment in the United States, the so called Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) of 2013, enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed into law by NC Governor Pat McCrory. I think that the more accurate name is the Voter Suppression Act (VSA) of 2013.
It is very likely that in times to come either Judge Lewis or Judge Martin will be passing judgment on cases arising out of the VSA. Know that both judges are republicans but there is no democrat candidate contesting the seat that they are competing for. So at the end of the day democrats need to decide if one of them is more likely to be better than the other on the issue of voter suppression challenges and endorse that candidate. This may be a bit problematic for democrats but the judicial race is non-partisan and democrats endorse and support republicans in non-partisan municipal elections on an on-going basis.
The fact that judges matter is also illustrated by the federal court decision of August 8, 2014 where the judge rejected the case brought by the NAACP, League of Women Voters and other progressive groups that sued to prevent the use of the 2013 voter suppression guidelines for the upcoming November Elections. With the federal judge’s rejection of the NAACP, League of Women Voters, and others, the November Elections will witness massive voter suppression because of the new laws.
Like it or not, you really do have to make a choice between the two republican judicial candidates for the highest seat in the North Carolina Judiciary, Judges Ola Lewis or Mark Martin. I assume from all I’ve heard and read that both candidates are equally qualified and so discerning their likely position on voter suppression cases is my objective herein. Although the fact that Judge Ola Lewis is Black shouldn’t necessarily be the most important factor in your decision, being Black, in my opinion does mean that she is a lot more likely to understand the double standard that Blacks, women, Hispanics and others have historically faced in our judicial system.
The fact that Judge Mark Martin was recently appoint by Governor Pat McCrory to fill the remaining two-months of the unexpired term of recently retired Supreme Court Chief Justice, Sarah Parker and was also endorsed by the Republican Party over fellow republican Ola Lewis, makes it a lot more likely that his decisions, if elected will be more supportive to the Voter Suppression Act.
Because we’re running out of time I am reminding you of what I wrote last week. I think that the role of Black Elected Officials (BEO) between now and November will determine which candidate wins. BEOs have inherent attributes that have to be capitalized on to create the massive Black turnout needed in November. Because they’ve run campaigns before, they have constituents that they are able to mobilize and turnout voters. They have community relationships that they can use to mobilize voters and they have inherent credibility with people that have voted them into office. The greatest danger that I see is that no mobilization plan that I know of has been identified and universally embraced by our community leadership. For suggestions of getting involved see my commentary from last week.
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Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News with a primary focus on voter suppression. To join the campaign to defeat voter suppression please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/votersuppression, “Share” our articles, and your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our website www.GreaterDiversity.com. Also, to promote the campaign to defeat voter suppression, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to follow the above-referenced recommendations. Additionally, please follow us on Twitter at @yourrighttovote: (https://twitter.com/yourrighttovote)