The Justice Department is moving aggressively against North Carolina’s recently enacted and restrictive elections law, suing the state under the Voting Rights Act and alleging the controversial measure discriminates against poor voters and minorities.
The move is the latest in a series of steps taken by Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to push back against a string of restrictive voting measures in many states that have become law in recent years.
As Stateline previously reported, the actions represent an attempt from the Justice Department to re-exert its influence over state elections after the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act earlier this year. That decision freed states with a history of discrimination and racism in their elections laws from having to get any law changes approved by the Justice Department or a federal court before they took effect. Those “pre-clearance” restrictions applied in all or part of 16 states, mainly in the south.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit against North Carolina is expected to argue that the North Carolina law is unconstitutionally discriminatory and that officials intended it to be. The lawsuit is also expected to include a claim under one remaining section of the Voting Rights Action, Section 3, that if successful would place the state back under the pre-clearance regime. The department has filed a similar suit against Texas, which passed what many consider the toughest voter ID law in the county.
The North Carolina law also has a strict voter ID requirement, but includes a host of other changes, including limiting early voting days. The measure drew considerable outrage even before it was enacted in August, and voting rights groups like the NAACP and ACLU have pledge to fight against it, already filing lawsuits of their own.