Justice Department will sue N.C. over new voting laws

Freddie Allen | 10/1/2013, 10:50 a.m.

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Stepping up efforts to combat voting laws that discriminate against Blacks, Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to sue North Carolina over restrictive, new voting laws that critics say will suppress the minority vote.

In a press statement, Holder said: “The North Carolina law includes troubling new restrictions, such as provisions that will significantly reduce early voting days; eliminate same-day registration during early voting; impose a restrictive photo identification requirement for in-person voting; and prohibit the counting of otherwise legitimate provisional ballots that are mistakenly cast in the right county, but in the wrong precinct.”

He said that the Justice Department expects to show that the clear and intended effects of these changes would contract the electorate and result in unequal access to participation in the political process on account of race.

Holder said North Carolina took the actions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Just months after North Carolina saw the highest overall turnout in sheer numbers in its history – in November 2012 – and within days of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision to strike down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act – the state legislature took aggressive steps to curtail the voting rights of African Americans,” Holder stated. “This is an intentional attempt to break a system that was working. It defies common sense.”

In August, the Justice Department filed a suit against Texas over similar, restrictive voter ID regulations and redistricting plans that would dilute minority voting power.

Holder also warned that it will go after other states that violate the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.

“The Justice Department will never hesitate to do all that we must to protect the Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights of all Americans,” he said. The new voting laws in North Carolina require strict enforcement of photo identification to cast ballots in the state.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law reported that Blacks account for 36 percent of North Carolina voters who lack a state-issued ID card. Even though nearly 60 percent of voters in the state opted to vote early in 2012, the new law also cuts early voting days in half. More than 70 percent of Black voters in the state took advantage of early voting opportunities.

The law also eliminates same-day registration during the early voting period. According to the Lawyer’s Committee, Blacks accounted for 34 percent of same-day registrants.

“The Southern strategy of the well-funded, nationally-coordinated, ultra-right that the only way that they can hold on to their power at the national, state and local level is to drastically suppress voting rights for minorities,” said William Barber, president of the North Carolina branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Color People. “We need every resource of the civil rights community and the U.S. government to help us expose the national conspiracy behind this movement to suppress targeted constituencies, particularly in the new Southern electorate.”

Barber continued: “As the good people of North Carolina learn more about the origins and true aims of the hodge podge of voter suppression tactics we have seen, we are confident that they and the courts will join us in saying that ‘we must go forward together and not one step back.’”