The U.S. Justice Department will file suit against North Carolina today over a controversial voter ID law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. This lawsuit alleges that this violates the Voting Rights Act and discriminates against African-American voters.
The suit, filed in Greensboro, N.C., will ask that the state be barred from enforcing the new voter-ID law. However, the case will also ask that the entire state 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. Forty North Carolina counties were under such a requirement until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a “preclearance” requirement until the Civil Rights Act in a 5-4 ruling in June.
Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed the voter ID measure into law last last month. In signing the bill, he said that common practices like “boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID, and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote. This new law brings our state in line with a healthy majority of other states throughout the country. This common-sense safeguard is commonplace.”
However, prior to the 2012 Presidential election, former Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the bill and the Legislature could not override her veto.The lawsuit will object to the law’s photo ID requirement as well as three other key provisions: the elimination of the first seven days of early voting that took place in 2012, the end to same-day voter registration during the early voting period, and the end to the option of provisional ballots for voters who show up at the wrong polling place. This lawsuit will allege that the law was passed with discriminatory intent and as part of a deliberate effort to deny African- Americans the right to vote.
A North Carolina Board of Elections study earlier this year found that more than 300,000 registered voters in the state did not have a Department of Motor Vehicles-issued ID. African-Americans accounted for 34% of those who did not match with the DMV records, although they account for only about 22% of registered voters in the state.
This follows a DOJ-filed lawsuit against Texas in July over redistricting and voter ID. Gov. Rick Perry signed the law stating: “This end run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process.”
In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that an Indiana voter ID law was constitutional. However, the justices did not deal with the question of whether that law or a similar law in another state might violate the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights advocates have insisted that the Voting Rights Act puts a greater burden on states seeking to restrict voting when doing so disproportionately affects minority voters.