Civil rights pioneer troubled by restrictive voting laws in NC
As the nation awaits a decision in the recently concluded voting rights trial in Winston-Salem, former NC Supreme Court chief justice Henry Frye says he has no doubts on why the NC legislature passed the law in question ending same-day voter registration and cutting a week off early voting.
“It’s clear to me that the effort was to reduce the number of certain people to register to vote,” said Frye, who in 1968 became the first African-American elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in the 20th century.
Frye recently sat down with Common Cause North Carolina for an extended interview about his accomplished career in public service and his thoughts on the controversial voting law enacted by the legislature.
Common Cause North Carolina is a plaintiff in the lawsuit tried in the U.S. Middle District Court. Bob Phillips, Common Cause NC executive director, testified in the trial that eliminating same-day voter registration and reducing early voting from 17 to 10 days would make it harder for all citizens to exercise their right to vote – a sentiment Frye agrees with.
“Why would you reduce the time that people have to register to vote?” Frye said. “Seems to me you ought to give people all the time they need to vote.”
Nearly 60 years ago, Frye was initially denied the ability to register to vote by so-called “literacy tests.” One of the first bills he filed as a state legislator was to eliminate literacy tests. His legislation was approved by the General Assembly but failed in a public referendum at that time.
Meanwhile, Frye believes the new voting restrictions passed by the legislature in 2013 were unnecessary.
“There’s no evidence that I saw that there was any massive fraud in North Carolina in terms of people voting who weren’t supposed to vote,” he said.
The decision now rests with federal Judge Thomas Schroeder, who is expected to render a verdict in the coming weeks.
Common Cause North Carolina is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to encouraging citizen participation in democracy.