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On Display: "ACLU of North Carolina: Fifty Years of Protecting Liberty
Date: July 27 - Sept. 4
Location: Wilmington

Date: Sept. 7 - Nov. 30
Location: Chapel Hill

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WILMINGTON, N.C. – The New Hanover County Public Library is hosting a 10-panel history exhibit, “ACLU of North Carolina: Fifty Years of Protecting Liberty,” that chronicles the American Civil Liberties Union’s work defending civil liberties in North Carolina since the founding of its North Carolina affiliate in 1965. The New Hanover County Public Library is located at 201 Chestnut Street in Wilmington.

The exhibit, which recounts the ACLU of North Carolina’s work on eight key civil liberties issues – free speech, voting rights, privacy rights, criminal justice reform, LGBT equality, women’s rights, racial justice, and religious liberty – is on display in Wilmington through September 4. It was previously displayed at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro and Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte and is scheduled to be on display at the Chapel Hill Public Library later this fall.

The ACLU of North Carolina was founded by a committed group of volunteers in Greensboro in 1965 to challenge North Carolina’s “speaker ban,” which prohibited so-called “radicals” from speaking at state universities; the ACLU-NC successfully challenged the law in court as a violation of the First Amendment. At the time, there were about 300 dues-paying ACLU members in the state. Fifty years later, the ACLU-NC boasts a full-time staff based in Raleigh and more than 10,000 members and supporters across the state. The organization has gone on to play a leading role in legal and advocacy campaigns to protect voting rights, secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, reform North Carolina’s criminal justice system, and defend many other civil liberties over the past 50 years.

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RALEIGH – North Carolina could hide the source of lethal injection drugs used to execute prisoners on death row under a bill approved by the state Senate today. HB 774 would also remove the requirement that a qualified physician be present at all executions and would instead allow any medical professional to assist in the execution. A version of the bill has already been approved by the House. The House will need to approve the Senate version before it heads to Gov. Pat McCrory.

“Horrifically botched executions in other states have demonstrated that we need more transparency, not less, when it comes to who is supervising executions and which drugs are being used to kill inmates,” said Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “North Carolina can’t hide behind a veil of secrecy when it carries out this ultimate and irreversible punishment. Courts, lawyers and the public have a right to know basic details about how the government executes inmates in their name. We urge Gov. McCrory to veto this bill in order to keep capital punishment transparent and spare the state costly legal challenges.”

Experimental, untested drug combinations were used in the horrifically botched and tortuous 2014 executions of Clayton Lockett (Oklahoma), Joseph Wood (Arizona), and Dennis McGuire (Ohio).

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Isabel Najera was excited to vote in her first election as a U.S. citizen in 2014. The North Carolina mother of four did everything right to cast a ballot that would count. She registered in time, went to the right polling place, and showed up to cast a ballot during early voting. But as she testified in federal court Tuesday, through no fault of her own, Isabel’s registration was lost and her vote did not count.   

Isabel is one of dozens of witnesses testifying this week and next in the trial over North Carolina’s voter suppression law, without which Isabel’s vote would have counted. The ACLU and Southern Coalition for Social Justice are challenging provisions of the law that eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and a full week of early voting. Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians used these voting options in previous elections before they were repealed by the state’s Legislature in 2013, in what many observers called the worst voter suppression law in the nation.   

Isabel was born in Mexico and came to the United States 21 years ago as a legal permanent resident. She worked as a migrant farm worker before getting a job with her local Head Start, teaching 2- and 3-year-olds life and socialization skills. While working, Isabel also earned her GED and eventually an associate’s degree in early childhood education.

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By Mike Meno, ACLU-NC Communications Director

The ACLU and other groups were in federal court for the first day of arguments against North Carolina’s 2013 voter suppression law, which many court observers have called the most restrictive voting law in the nation. Along with the ACLU of North Carolina and Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the ACLU is representing the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and other groups and individuals in a challenge to provisions of the law that eliminated same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting, and reduced the number of days when North Carolinians could vote early by an entire week. Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, the majority of them African Americans, have relied on those measures to cast their votes in past elections.

The trial will feature dozens of witnesses who will explain how North Carolina’s new voting restrictions have severely restricted ballot access for the state’s most vulnerable citizens, including low-wealth voters, those with transportation challenges, and particularly African American voters. In the 2012 election, 900,000 North Carolinians cast their ballots during the seven days of early voting eliminated by the North Carolina General Assembly. Seventy percent of those who voted early were African American.

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