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Voter ID horror story: NC poll workers forced brown-skinned couple to take a ‘spelling test’

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A man in North Carolina has detailed the wringer through which both he and wife were subjected when trying to vote in the state’s recent primary, as people with South Asian names in a state with a strict voter ID law. And this happened not once, but twice.

Rudy Ravindra, a resident of Wilmington, penned an op-ed piece in the Raleigh News & Observer about his experience when he went to cast his ballot during the early voting period.

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“I gave my driver’s license to a poll worker, HW. He kept it face down and ordered me to spell my name,” Ravindra explained. “Although I go by Rudy, my legal name is Rudravajhala. In order to save time, I requested HW look at my ID. He barked, ‘You gotta spell it!’ So I took a deep breath and began. ‘R-U-D-‘”

During the encounter itself, there followed a scene reminiscent of an old literacy test — administered by somebody who might’ve had their own problems at passing it. Ravindra described it as a “spelling test.”

“He repeated after me and typed each letter,” Ravindra wrote in the News & Observer. “When he typed a B instead of a D, I had to correct him, ‘It’s not B; it’s D for dog.'”

“This farce went on a for a while, and each time he made a mistake, I patiently corrected. Meanwhile, voters in adjacent lines came and went briskly. I heaved a sigh of relief when HW finally entered my mouthful of a name into his computer and peered at the monitor. And then I had to pronounce it, and when he tried, he couldn’t get it right.”

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Finally — and after also being asked for his address — Ravindra was able to vote. He was tempted to tell the poll worker off — but was worried that if he did, they “might summon the police to haul me off.”

Ravindra took his wife to the polls on Election Day itself, at a different location and with a different poll worker — who proceeded to give her exactly the same treatment he got: “Keeping her ID face down, he asked her to spell her name and pronounce it.”

And just as before, white voters around them were able to easily pass through with just a quick look at their ID cards.

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Ravindra added: “My wife and I couldn’t help but feel that we were singled out. The poll workers could have simply looked at our IDs and saved a lot of time. That in a sea of white faces at both polling stations my wife and I were the only brown-skinned individuals also led us to suspect that we were victims of racial prejudice. In these days of Trumpism and shameless xenophobia and other assorted phobias, we can’t be blamed if we are paranoid.”

After this entire saga ended for both Ravindra and his wife, he called the state Board of Elections to lodge a complaint. The director apologized and confirmed to him that poll workers only have to look at the photo ID — there was no necessity for him to have to spell out his name.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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