Many attendees of the rally felt voting rights in North Carolina are at risk, including Jeff Lauer of UNC-Asheville’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“We’re pissed off about voter ID laws and trying to redraw districts and (making) people’s votes not count, so we came out here to voice our opinion,” he said. “For so long voting was used to keep power at first in the hands of property-owning white males, and over time we’ve been able to fight and get that right to every citizen.”
Defeating voter ID legislation and expanding early voting and same-day registration are some of the main objectives of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street, known as HKonJ, People’s Assembly Coalition, hosted by the North Carolina NAACP and Democracy North Carolina.
North Carolina’s controversial 2013 law, requiring a valid form of photo ID at the polls, is currently being challenged by the state NAACP and other plaintiffs in federal court.
Rally participant Kyra Rubin, a first-year at UNC-Chapel Hill, questioned the motives of the law.
“I don’t know why you’d make it harder to be civically engaged,” she said. “I think a lot of people don’t understand that, and so it’s really important to have a lot of people out here to show there are very insidious reasons why this law is going into place.”
Rubin, along with fellow UNC first-years Abbey Cmiel and Sean Kurz, attended the rally to make sure their ability to vote is protected.
“A lot of college students don’t realize the power that comes with voting and don’t take advantage of that,” Cmiel said. “It’s really important to convey those ideas to our leadership.”
Signs at the rally read “Voting Rights Now” to evoke imagery of voting rights marches during the Civil Rights Movement.
Courtney Parker, a Raleigh native, said she was participating in honor of her father.
“When my father was growing up as a Black Panther he had to fight for voting rights and I think the state of North Carolina is going backwards with regard to voting rights,” she said. “It’s kind of ridiculous that I have to protest that which my father’s generation and his father’s generation protested, but I am out here so I can do better for my children’s generation.”