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

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

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said that the new voting law was common sense, despite reports by that suggested the type of fraud that would be prevented by photo ID requirements is rare.

Testifying before the North Carolina Assembly Committee on voter ID, Keesha Gaskins; senior counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University said that, “more than 21 million votes have been cast in North Carolina over the past 12 years. During that time only one case of voter impersonation occurred.”

In that one case, Gaskins said, North Carolina’s election system and law enforcement agencies identified the problem and took appropriate action.

Barber said that the far right created the myth of rampant voter fraud and repeated it over and over and over again in order to manipulate public consciousness and to engage in regressive legislation.

The type of fraud that would be prevented by restrictive voter ID requirements is so rare that in a 2012 study on voter fraud, The Brennan Center for Justice reported that “it is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”

Barber lambasted the bill saying that “it tramples on the blood of our martyrs desecrates the graves of freedoms tramples and in the 21st century lines up with extreme racially driven philosophy of interposition and nullification.”

In Shelby v. Holder, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Section 4 was unconstitutional effectively gutting Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires districts with a proven history of discrimination to get pre-approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes in their voting laws.

Civil rights groups praised the Justice Department’s planned lawsuit against new North Carolina voting laws that would disproportionately affect Black, Latino and poor voters in the state.

“It is extremely important that the United States Justice Department is using the power under the rest of the Voting Rights Act to combat this type of voter suppression in North Carolina,” said Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999.

Hair added: “The law was intentionally designed to focus with laser-like specification on those aspects of voting that would that would most hurt people of color.”

In a statement following Holder’s announcement, Barbara Arnwine, executive director of The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said: “What was once a bad photo ID bill that was making its way through the North Carolina legislature became a compendium of even worse voting policy that was thrown together once the State saw its chance to avoid Section 5 review under the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder.”

Arnwine continued: “North Carolina’s own data demonstrates that this law will have a clear discriminatory impact on African Americans and other minority voters, and the Department of Justice was absolutely correct to challenge this law. The Department’s action sends an important message to other states that they should expect a fight if and when they attempt to roll back the clock on voting opportunities.”