Justice dept. to sue over voter ID law
by Staff Reports
The suit will challenge provisions of House Bill 589 under the non-discrimination requirements of the Voting Rights Act. It also will name the N.C. State Board of Elections and executive director Kim Strach as defendants.
The law requires certain types of photo IDs to vote, shortens the early voting period from 17 to 10 days, eliminates same-day voter registration during the early voting period, abolishes straight-party voting and ends a program that preregisters high school students to vote when they turn 18.
"By restricting access and ease of voter participation, this new law would shrink, rather than expand, access to the franchise," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "Allowing limits on voting rights that disproportionately exclude minority voters would be inconsistent with our ideals as a nation. Whenever warranted by the facts and the law, the department will not hesitate to use the tools and legal authorities at our disposal to fight against racial discrimination, to stand against disenfranchisement and to safeguard the right of every eligible American to cast a ballot."
The justice department's complaint contends that at least four provisions of House Bill 589 were adopted with the purpose and will have the result of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group.
The complaint asks the court to prohibit North Carolina from enforcing these requirements and also requests that the court order bail-in relief under Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act. If granted, this would subject North Carolina to a new pre-clearance requirement.
If the federal court in this case finds that North Carolina should be covered by Section 3(c), then the state would be required to submit voting changes to the U.S. Attorney General or to the federal court for review prior to implementation, to ensure that the changes do not have a discriminatory effect or a discriminatory purpose.
Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis issued a joint statement in response to the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit: "The Obama Justice Department's baseless claims about North Carolina's election reform law are nothing more than an obvious attempt to quash the will of the voters and hinder a hugely popular voter ID requirement. The law was designed to improve consistency, clarity and uniformity at the polls and it brings North Carolina's election system in line with a majority of other states. We are confident it protects the right of all voters, as required by the U.S. and North Carolina Constitutions."
Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina praised the lawsuit in a statement released Monday.
"Now is not the time to be putting up barriers to the right to vote, and I applaud the Justice Department's decision to challenge the new voter access restrictions in North Carolina that would, among other things, cut off a week of early voting and end same day registration," Hagan said. "We shouldn't be giving everyday North Carolinians fewer opportunities to make their voices heard while we are giving corporations more opportunities to influence elections. Restricting access to this basic right is simply not in sync with our North Carolina values, and it goes against our state's proud tradition of eliminating barriers to participation in the democratic process."
The N.C. Board of Elections met by teleconference Monday afternoon but did not discuss the lawsuit.
Return to WataugaDemocrat.com for updates.