Yesterday U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder formally announced his plans to sue the the state of North Carolina for passing what many civil rights advocates have called the worst voter suppression law in the nation. Holder is filing suit under Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits denying or abridging voting rights for people of color. Holder is also requesting a federal court to enter the state of North Carolina into preclearance oversight under Section Three of the law. If the Justice Department’s suit is successful, the state’s new preclearance status will mean it will have to submit any election changes to the federal government for review to ensure no racial discrimination will result before they can be applied.
At the time of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder ruling in June, which nullified the preclearance coverage formula under Section Four and Five of the Act, only 40 of North Carolina’s 100 counties were subject to preclearance. But shortly after the Shelby ruling, which released the counties from preclearance oversight, state legislators passed HB 589, the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA), the law Holder is now challenging.
The Attorney General said he would prove not only that VIVA would have discriminatory results, but also that legislators intentionally passed the law to make it harder for people of color to vote.
“This is an intentional attempt to break a system that was working,” said Holder at the press conference. “It defies common sense.”