"As a 1991 graduate of Duke University, I read with profound sadness the reports of recent racial tensions on campus that culminated with the discovery of a noose hanging in front of the Bryan Center in the wee hours of April 1. The fact that some students of color have expressed that they feel unwelcome and unsafe needs to be taken very seriously. As difficult and painful as it can be for the dominant culture to look critically at our own reflection in the mirror, recognition of the microaggressions, biases, denial and in some cases, overt hate that has been exposed here is something that needs to happen not only at Duke but throughout the nation.
Tomorrow we will present closing arguments in our three-week trial challenging North Carolina’s repressive voting laws. Over the past weeks, we heard about the hurdles that voters faced to cast their vote under the suppressive law North Carolina instituted almost two years ago. North Carolina did away with the week of early voting in which 900,000 voters voted last presidential election, eliminated the opportunity to register and vote on the same day, and prohibited the failsafe of out-of-precinct voting. All three provisions placed a heavier burden on African-American voters than white voters, because African-American voters disproportionately used the eliminated voting methods.
We heard from Michael Owens, who testified that he could not reach his assigned polling place on Election Day without a car, but was able to get to a polling place near work. Because North Carolina eliminated out-of-precinct voting, he was turned away at the polls without having the opportunity to cast his ballot. In a state where there are deep disparities by race in car ownership, a history of segregated neighborhoods, and inadequate public transportation, the fact that Owens is one of many Black voters who is affected by this change should come as no surprise.
We heard from Jessica Jackson, a long-time voter who tried to register at the DMV after moving across county lines, only to find out at the polls on Election Day that the DMV had failed to transmit her voter registration. In previous elections, she would have been able to easily correct the DMV’s error using same-day registration. Under the new repressive regime, her vote did not count. The state’s error disenfranchised her completely.