Last month, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) sent a letter to the Department of Justice practically begging them to review her state’s new voter ID law, which elections experts believe will insidiously impact voters of color, elders, college students and many women. Her appeal to the Attorney General comes as she vies for re-election in 2014, one of 33 Senators whose seats will be up for grabs. Until this year, much of North Carolina was protected by the Voting Rights Act because of a history of voter discrimination. Under VRA’s Section Five, 40 of the state’s 100 counties were subject to preclearance, meaning officials there had to submit any proposed elections changes to the Justice Department or a federal court to determine if racial discrimination might result. Since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the preclearance coverage formula this summer, the state is no longer subject to those federal reviews. Then North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly passed the Voter Information Verification Act, to Sen. Hagan’s consternation.
What’s at stake for the VRA in 2014 is whether it can be improved upon, restored to its former glory, or whether it will be further eroded. Congress might fix the law before those elections — maybe even as soon as this year. But without such a fix, the outcomes of those races could lead to a VRA that’s in even worse shape than it is now.
While Section Five was dismantled, other parts are still intact. They include Section Two, which allows parties to sue if an elections policy is changed or a law is passed that disenfranchises people of color, and Section Three, which allows a jurisdiction to be “bailed-in” to preclearance if a judge determines that a pattern of discrimination has occurred over time.
Full Article: Why the 2014 election matters for voting rights.