A student registers to vote in North Carolina (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
The Justice Department filed suit against key provisions of North Carolina’s worst-in-the-nation voter suppression law in federal court today. The lawsuit alleges that North Carolina’s harsh voter ID law, cutbacks to early voting, elimination of same-day registration during the early voting period and ban on counting provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The Department also argues that these voting changes were enacted with intentional discrimination and thus North Carolina should have to approve all of its voting changes with the federal government for a period of time.
“By restricting access and ease of voter participation, this new law would shrink, rather than expand, access to the franchise,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference today. Days after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, “the state legislature took aggressive steps to curtail the voting rights of African-Americans,” said Holder. “This is an intentional attempt to break a system that was working.”
The DOJ case comes on the heels of three lawsuits filed by civil rights groups in August challenging North Carolina’s voting restrictions. The Department has also recently filed suit against Texas’s voter ID law and redistricting maps.
Seven Southern states have passed or implemented new voting restrictions since that SCOTUS decision, and the North Carolina law is the most extreme yet. The law eliminates or curtails nearly everything that encourages people to vote in North Carolina, replaced by unnecessary and burdensome new requirements. The evidence of discrimination against African-American voters in the state is crystal clear: African-Americans are 23 percent of registered voters in North Carolina, but made up 29 percent of early voters in 2012, 30 percent of those who cast out-of-precinct ballots, 34 percent of the 318,000 registered voters without state-issued ID and 41 percent of those who used same-day registration.
From the complaint:
Against a backdrop of the State’s history of voting discrimination against African Americans and a dramatic increase in the State’s African-American voter turnout rates during the November general elections in 2008 and 2012, North Carolina enacted HB 589 with knowledge of the disproportionate effect that numerous provisions, both singly and together, would have on the equal political participation of minority voters. These provisions include the reduction of the early voting period, the elimination of same-day voter registration, and the imposition of voter photo identification requirements without reasonable safeguards for voters who face barriers to obtaining such identification.