LOUISBURG -- The documentary, Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook, begins with Barack Obama addressing a crowd of well wishers after securing the presidential election in 2008.
The 44th president of the United States was carried to victory by a wealth of first-time voters and minorities.
"... The future looked pretty daunting for Republicans at that time, so, there were those like me who said we just have to do a better job of being compassionate conservatives and expand our ranks," said one of the documentary's subjects, Mark McKinnon, a Republican Strategist for President George W. Bush.
"But, there were others that took a route where you figure out how to turn out more of your people and less of the other guys."
That latter approach, said documentary narrator Jeffrey Wright, is what led to what has become a more than decade-long Voter Suppression Playbook.
The film, by director Michael Kasino, explores that playbook and the impact it's had on people's ability to vote, including here in North Carolina, and the impact that it's had on elections, starting with the 2010 mid-term and into President Donald Trump's victory in 2016, and beyond.
The Franklin County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Franklin County Committee Against Rigged Voter Suppression co-sponsored the viewing inside the Hamilton Hobgood Courthouse Annex on Monday night.
And, the event was supported by the Franklin County Democratic Party and the Franklin County Concerned Women for Justice.
Inside the packed space, viewers watched the documentary that detailed what they call the voter suppression playbook, which consisted of:
• Leveraging national dollars to invest in key legislative races that swayed the balance of power to Republicans;
• Gerrymandering, an act by which the political party in power draws legislative maps to sustain and grow political influence;
• Enacted legislation which would require photo ID in order to vote;
• Took action to "gut the Voting Rights Act," which was a piece of 1965 legislation aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from voting;
• Began a campaign around the idea that voter fraud was rampant;
• Engaged in actions to purge voter rolls;
• Engaged in voter intimidation;
• President Trump engaged a Voter Integrity Commission to review claims of voter fraud (That commission disbanded in less than a year with no findings);
• With the backing of a Republican Senate and White House, Trump has worked to appoint a significant number of judges "with his best interests at heart."
After watching the hour and 20-minute long film, those in attendance engaged in a panel discussion and talked about ways to combat what they call a "war on voters."
"The film producers have turned back the curtain on the playbook that these general assemblies across the country have used in order to disenfranchise Democrats, senior citizens, minorities and poor people," said Armenta Eaton, an organizer of the event and daughter of civil rights icon Rosanell Eaton, who is featured in the film and for whom it is dedicated.
"It's a riveting documentary," Eaton said. "We hope it will bring some sense of understanding and the urgency that we need in order to curtail some of the things that are happening to us."
She and others said it's important to take that mentality with them heading into the 2019 and 2020 elections.
"... There are so many people who believe there is nothing wrong with the requirement for people to have photo ID to vote [or the other issues raised in the playbook]," said former state legislator Bobbie Richardson.
"But, as you have seen, when you strategically gerrymander and use the voter ID, we are creating a process by which many people will not vote and get more discouraged as the years go on.
"We have seen the Jim Crow Law put into effect, but now it's called gerrymandering; it's now called voter suppression.
"In those [Jim Crow] days, the communities that were impacted did not accept that," she said. "They fought against it.
"So, we've got to strategize differently.
"We need to use all of our energy to educate people about the voter ID and communicate to them how they can vote...
"... The value of the vote; It's not just marking a piece of paper," she said.
"Your vote has more value to it than any amount of money you can raise in your lifetime because your vote determines the highways that you ride on, the health care that you get ...
"It also impacts your educational system ...
"Your vote is a valuable tool because your vote elects the people who will pass the legislation that will determine what these resources will look like.
"If your vote was not a valuable tool, do you think they would've gone through all of what we just saw to stop you from voting?"
• The Franklin County Board of Election will next hold an educational seminar on the new voting rules on Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 6 p.m. at Terrell Lane Middle School in the cafetorium.
The address is 101 Terrell Lane, Louisburg.
The seminar is free and open to the public.
Beginning in 2020, voters will be required to provide photo identification before they vote.
This includes both in-person and by-mail voting, with some exceptions.
Pictured (Above): AROUND THE HORN. Doug Berger, second from right, moderates a panel discussion which includes, from left, Louisburg Town Councilman Christopher Neal, Jennifer Bremer, Statewide Coordinator for Fair Elections at the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, and Franklin County Commission Chair Sidney Dunston. (Times photo by Carey Johnson)