The Justice Department filed suit against North Carolina on Monday, charging that the Tar Heel State’s new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against African-Americans. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the lawsuit at Justice Department headquarters, flanked by the three U.S. attorneys from North Carolina. “Allowing limits on voting rights that disproportionately exclude minority voters would be inconsistent with our ideals as a nation,” Holder said. “And it would not be in keeping with the proud tradition of democracy that North Carolinians have built in recent years.” Holder charged that North Carolina’s legislation wouldn’t just incidentally hurt African American turnout, but was intentionally designed that way. “The Justice Department expects to show that the clear and intended effects of these changes would contract the electorate and result in unequal access to participation in the political process on account of race,” the attorney general said.
The suit, filed in Greensboro, N.C., asks that the state be barred from enforcing the new voter-ID law. However, the case goes further, demanding that the entire state of North Carolina be placed under a requirement to have all changes to voting laws, procedures and polling places “precleared” by either the Justice Department or a federal court, the source added.
Until this year, 40 North Carolina counties were under such a requirement. However, in June the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the formula Congress used to subject all or part of 15 states to preclearance in recent decades.
The justices’ 5-4 ruling outraged civil-rights advocates, but did not disturb a rarely used “bail in” provision in the law that allows judges to put states or localities under the preclearance requirement. Civil rights groups and the Justice Department have since seized on that provision to try to recreate part of the regime that existed prior to the Supreme Court decision.