Republicans used the confirmation hearings this week for Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s attorney general nominee, to stress their commitment to voting restrictions—and to try to tie Lynch’s hands on voting issues should she assume the post. One GOP senator pressed Lynch on her stance on restrictive voting laws. And Republicans asked for testimony from a witness who has led the effort to stoke fear over voter fraud, suggested her group was targeted by the Obama administration because of her group’s support for voter ID laws. Under Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department has acted aggressively to protect voting rights, challenging strict GOP-backed voting laws in Texas and North Carolina. Holder also has seemed to compare these laws to past efforts to keep minorities from voting. So Republicans sought to put pressure on Lynch to take a more conciliatory approach.
Sen. Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, asked Lynch Wednesday afternoon about her position on the sweeping voting law that his state’s Republicans passed in 2013. Tillis himself, who at the time served as speaker of the state House, was a key backer of the law, which cuts early voting, ends same-day registration and, starting in 2016, imposes a photo ID requirement, among other restrictions. The Justice Department has challenged the law under the Voting Rights Act.
In response, Lynch, a North Carolina native, didn’t answer directly. “It’s not something that I’m intimately familiar with,” she said. “I look forward to learning more about it should I be confirmed, and I believe the matter will proceed to court and we will await the results there.”
Tillis then read more pointed comments on the law that Lynch made in a speech on Martin Luther King Day last year. At that time, she said: “I’m proud to tell you that the Department of Justice has looked at these laws and looked at what’s happening in the Deep South, and in my home state of North Carolina has brought lawsuits against those voting rights changes that seek to limit our ability to stand up and exercise our rights as citizens. And those lawsuits will continue.”