Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the Justice Department is bringing a suit against North Carolina for voter suppression. This is the second suit filed since Republicans began passing laws designed to keep minorities, students, and seniors from voting. Republicans have felt empowered to pass these laws after the Roberts Court gutted the Voting Rights Act earlier this year.
News of this action may get buried since it is being announced on the day Republicans in Congress are shutting down the government.
Even though the Court took away the requirement that required states to get pre-approval of laws changing voting laws, the Court left intact provision so f the law that make it illegal for a state to pass laws that are designed to keep certain groups from voting.
The U.S. Department of Justice sued North Carolina alleging racial discrimination over a new voting law that shortens early voting and imposes other restrictions that could heavily impact minority voters including elimination of polling places in Democratic precincts and restrictive voter ID laws.
“By restricting access and ease of voter participation, this new law would shrink, rather than expand, access” to voting, Attorney General Eric Holder said. “Allowing limits on voting rights that disproportionately exclude minority voters would be inconsistent with our ideals as a nation.”
Within days of the Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, Republican Governors began pushing through voter suppression laws that the Justice Department previously blocked. The DOJ has already sued Texas over its discriminatory legislation.
North Carolina’s new law cuts early voting by a week, ends same-day voter registration and includes a stringent photo ID requirement. More than 70% of black people who voted in North Carolina during the last two presidential elections did so early. Studies show minority voters also are more likely to lack a driver’s license.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has vowed to fight the lawsuit, saying the federal complaint filed Monday is without merit. Governor Perry is fighting the lawsuit in Texas.
There are other states that have acted in a similar fashion including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Perhaps they will be next.
Justice Roberts, a Bush appointee who worked in the Justice Department when the Reagan Administration tried to gut the Voting Rights Law in the 1980’s, based his decision regarding prior approval on the argument that blacks are now voting in high numbers in the South. The reason blacks are voting in the South at all is because the Justice Department has stopped the states from enacting the very laws they have re-enacted since the Roberts Court gutted the law.
If federal courts do not agree with Holder and stop this suppression, it will not be long until many red states will be right back where they were in 1965.
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