North Carolina state lawmakers who voted to restrict voting rights faced an angry crowd in Charlotte on Wednesday.
At a Central Piedmont Community College Mecklenburg Legislators Forum sponsored by the Charlotte Observer, PNC Bank and WTVI, the four republicans on the panel reportedly “often found themselves on the defensive before a sometimes raucous audience.”
During the its last session, the Republican-controlled legislature put new restrictions on abortion clinics, loosened gun laws, rejected federal Medicaid funds, cut teacher benefits and enacted school vouchers.
But it was the the voting restrictions — which requires voters to have a government photo ID, cuts the number of early voting days and makes it more difficult for students to vote — that drew the angriest response from the crowd.
According to the Charlotte Observer, one audience member asked if there was any proof of widespread voter fraud.
State Sen. Bob Rucho (R) insisted that the new law was necessary to “establish a level of integrity” because there were no systems in place to detect fraud.
State Rep. Bill Brawley (R) attempted back up Rucho’s point, but he was met with shouts and boos from the audience.
“Let me finish!” Brawley shouted, before host Mike Collins interrupted to call for civility.
“The only fraud that’s being perpetrated is on the citizens of North Carolina,” Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Graham told the crowd.
Rep. Beverly Earle (D) agreed that what the new law was “about is voter suppression.”
At a nearby protest, North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP President Rev. William Barber marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech by explaining that people needed to “understand the nightmare” that was happening in North Carolina.
“Gains have been made over the years, but it’s just recently within the last few years that it seems that the clock is turning back,” Charlotte resident Anna Hood told WCNC.
Watch this video from WCNC, broadcast Aug. 29, 2013.