The Obama administration launched a legal challenge Monday to North Carolina’s restrictive new voting law, accusing the state’s legislature of intentionally discriminating against black voters. A Justice Department lawsuit filed in North Carolina federal court is the latest salvo in a heated battle over protections for minority voters and the limits of federal government authority over state election regulations. The action follows a major setback for the administration this summer, when a divided Supreme Court sided against the Justice Department’s challenge of a Texas state law, effectively gutting a major portion of the Voting Rights Act. “The administration promised a decisive response and this is it,” UCLA law professor Adam Winkler said, describing the North Carolina case as “a bold move.” At issue are provisions of a new Tar Heel State statute that would reduce the number of early voting days and require North Carolinians to show photo identification before they are allowed to cast ballots.
“The state legislature took extremely aggressive steps to curtail the voting rights of African-Americans,” Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters during a news conference at the agency’s headquarters.
Holder contends the new law, signed in August by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), would make it more difficult for people to vote and would disproportionately impact minorities.
In the last election cycle, more than 70 percent of black voters in North Carolina cast their ballots during the early voting period, Holder said. The new law would shrink the early voting period from 17 days to 10 days.
“Allowing limits on voting rights that disproportionately exclude minority voters would be inconsistent with our ideals as a nation,” Holder said.