A federal judge in Washington has rejected a lawsuit filed by a conservative North Carolina legislator seeking to overturn a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Rep. Stephen A. LaRoque, a Republican, and four other Kinston men filed a lawsuit last year claiming that Section 5 of the landmark civil rights law is unconstitutional. The section requires jurisdictions with a past history of racial discrimination to seek pre-approval from the U.S. Justice Department before making changes in voting procedures.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder exercised that authority to nullify an effort by LaRoque’s group, Kinston Citizens for Non-Partisan Voting, to amend the city’s charter to remove party affiliation from the ballot in municipal elections. A majority of Kinston residents are black and the group complained that straight-ticket voting favors Democrats.
U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates rejected the complaint, citing long established legal precedents that underpin the most recent 2006 revision of the Voting Rights Act. “This Court declines to overturn that careful, well-supported judgment,” Bates ruled.
LaRoque’s lawyers immediately filed notice he plans to appeal. He could not immediately be reached for comment.