NC Poll Workers Make Brown-Skinned Couple Take Spelling Test Before Voting

Here’s a story that looks like it could’ve come out of the 1930s or 1940s: In an op-ed piece written in the Raleigh News & Observer, North Carolina native Rudy Ravindra detailed the rigmarole that poll worker forced him to go through just to vote — in a state with strict voter ID laws.

And this happened twice.

“Spell it”

Voter ID laws are a solution in search of a problem; the issue of voter fraud is so vanishingly small that Rubio’s chances of winning look comparatively large. The purpose of these laws is to discriminate against people, and they’re doing that admirably, as Ravindra details in his piece:

I gave my driver’s license to a poll worker, HW. He kept it face down and ordered me to spell my name.

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-”

He repeated after me and typed each letter. 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.

I can’t say it was intentional, but given that he had a “strange name”, was brown-skinned, and this is North Carolina, I’m almost certain it was.

After giving his address, Ravindra was finally able to vote. And while he was tempted to tell the poll worker off — something I probably would’ve done, but I have the privilege of owning fairer skin and having one of those bizarre Anglo-Saxon names everyone thinks is “normal” — he didn’t.

But this wasn’t the last time this would happen. Ravindra took his wife to polls on Election Day itself, at a different location and with a different poll worker — and, lo and behold, she got the same treatment:

Keeping her ID face down, he asked her to spell her name and pronounce it.

Meanwhile, white people continued to breeze on past: “Our two Caucasian friends who live in different areas of town voted at different polling places. In contrast to our humiliating experience, however, they did not have to pass the spelling test and after a cursory glance at their IDs were allowed to vote.”

He notes that he and his wife rightly felt singled out:

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.

No, and shamefully enough, it’s justified.

To add insult to injury, when Ravindra reported the activity to the Board of Elections, the director informed him that poll workers only need to look at the photo ID — there was no reason to spell his name, other than the poll worker’s own petty insecurities and bigotries.

Feature image via The Law and Me

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