Cheri Beasley sits at a table in a restaurant with potential supporters in Durham, NC. NC Democratic US Senate Candidate Cheri Beasley
Cheri Beasley, a Democratic US Senate candidate, speaks to potential voters in Durham, North Carolina. 'People should be insulted and outraged that elected officials are actually working to make sure that there are people in this state who aren't voting, who can't vote,' she said. (Photo by Allison Lee Isley for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Cheri Beasley, the first Black woman to serve as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, framed voting rights in terms of family legacy and outlined her plan to safeguard them if elected to the US Senate.

This is Part 2 of a Cardinal & Pine series, in which top Democrats vying to represent North Carolina in the 2022 US Senate outline how they’ll protect our votes. Read Part 1 here and Part 3 here

Ten years of Republican control in North Carolina’s state legislature have yielded several attempts to impose stricter voter ID requirements and limit early voting. Cheri Beasley, who is running as a Democratic candidate to represent North Carolina in the US Senate, said that’s a problem.

“The Voting Rights Act allowed my now late mother, Lou Beasley, who earned a Ph.D., the right to vote. And here we are, 56 years later, still fighting to protect this fundamental, this basic, this all-American right to allow the participation and engagement of North Carolinians and Americans the right to vote,” she told Cardinal & Pine.

Beasley supports efforts to pass the For the People Act, also known as HR 1, after Republicans in 18 states passed 30 new voting laws this year that make it more difficult for people to vote. HR1 would broaden access and, among other things, eliminate barriers to voting like complex voter registration and limited in-person voting hours. It would also increase access to absentee and mail-in voting and enhance support for secure elections. 

Beasley began her career as an assistant public defender in North Carolina’s 12th judicial district. In 1999, she was appointed as a judge and worked her way up the judicial ladder until in 2019, Beasley made history by becoming the first African American woman to serve as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Beasley’s attention turned to Washington after being defeated for re-election by a margin of 412 votes. 

C&P: Why should we be talking about the For the People Act right now?

Cheri Beasley: It is critical. The For the People Act was proposed legislation almost 200 days ago, and it is Republicans who have been stifling advancements of this legislation. All of us, Democrats and Republicans, should be encouraging people to exercise their right to vote. 

People should be insulted and outraged that elected officials are actually working to make sure that there are people in this state who aren’t voting, who can’t vote.

C&P: Can you describe the consequences of restricting voting rights?

Cheri Beasley: In 2020, we saw full participation. I mean, people really came out to vote. We were in the middle of a pandemic and we were cautious about coming out—it was before the vaccine had been made public. All of us knew that it was really important to provide all kinds of efforts and access to the right to vote. 

In North Carolina, we had to vote by mail. We had early voting and we also had voting available on Election Day. And if someone mailed their ballot on Election Day, the voter had three days after that for that ballot to arrive at the Board of Elections for it to still be counted as valid. Well, here we are at a period where there are efforts to curtail that.