The US Justice Department sued North Carolina yesterday over the state’s new restrictive voting law.
The lawsuit challenges four parts of the new law: the photo identification provision, the shortening of the early voting period, the elimination of same-day voter registration during the early-voting period, and the prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast by voters in their home county but outside their home voting precinct.
These types of voting restrictions disproportionately affect the ability of racial minorities, students, and women to vote. As many as 25 percent of eligible African-American voters and 16 percent of Hispanics do not have government-issued photo identification that would allow them to vote in states with strict voter-ID laws. Many students who vote in their college communities do not have IDs that would allow them to vote in these states, and in one survey, 34 percent of women voters did not have an ID that reflected their current name. Restrictions on early voting have also been shown to place unnecessary burdens on the ability of these groups to vote.
“Allowing limits on voting rights that disproportionately exclude minority voters would be inconsistent with our ideals as a nation,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in remarks yesterday.
The state’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed the law last month, claiming it would protect against voter fraud. However, a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, found that voter fraud is extremely rare.
The Justice Department will also ask the court to require North Carolina to get preclearance before making any more changes to its voting laws. Previously, several states and parts of states that have histories of discrimination were required under the Voting Rights Act to obtain approval before changing any voting laws. The Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder this June requires that Congress create a new formula for determining which states must obtain this preclearance.
Media Resources: The Washington Post 9/29/13; Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law; Politico 11/30/11; Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; The U.S. Department of Justice News 9/30/13; CNN 9/30/13; Supreme Court Opinion October 2012
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