September 30, 2013
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today filed a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent North Carolina from implementing voter suppression measures recently passed by the General Assembly. DOJ’s move underscores how the sweeping Voter Information Verification ACT (VIVA), which includes a photo ID requirement, reductions to early voting, the elimination of same day registration and other measures that burden voting, violates federal law and requires swift legal intervention to preserve the rights of all North Carolina voters. Read the DOJ complaint here.
“We are very encouraged by this development and particularly by the Department’s claims that the new law had the intent, as well as the effect, of discriminating against African-American voters in the state,” said SCSJ Executive Director Anita Earls. Recognizing the new law’s far–reaching threat to voting rights, SCSJ, filed lawsuits in state and federal court on behalf of civic engagement groups and individual voters alleging that the state-issued photo ID requirement, reductions in early voting, elimination of same day voting and other features of the Act will burden the right to vote in violation of the United States Constitution and will dilute African-American voting strength in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Jo Nicholas, President of SCSJ plaintiff organization the NC League of Women Voters, stated that “the League of Women Voters is thrilled that DOJ has joined us and other organizations in the fight to protect voting rights on the ground in North Carolina.” SCSJ voter ID plaintiff Alberta Currie is pleased that the DOJ is intervening to prevent voter suppression. Currie, a 76 year-old granddaughter of slaves who does not have a birth certificate and thus is not eligible to receive a state-issued photo ID, would no longer be able to vote in person under the new law. “If I can’t vote in person like everyone else it wouldn’t feel fair; it would seem like my vote didn’t count,” stated Currie.
This development has been covered by the Washington Post, New York Times, Raleigh News & Observer, and WRAL, among others.
DOJ’s action in this case is a strong signal that North Carolina and other states previously covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act will be held accountable for any attempt to weaken the right to vote in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision. Attorney General Holder also announced today that they will seek to require North Carolina to submit voting changes for preclearance under the “bail-in” provision of the Voting Rights Act that extends preclearance requirements to any jurisdiction found to violate the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. SCSJ represented the first plaintiffs to seek “bail-in” in Texas, a state where DOJ subsequently asked for “bail-in” as well. “We are happy to see that the Texas bail-in model is being used by DOJ to seek similar relief in North Carolina,” said SCSJ staff attorney Allison Riggs. “SCSJ will continue to battle this law in state and federal court, and appreciates the added support of the DOJ.”
September 30, 2013