The US Department of Justice will challenge a new law in North Carolina that will require voters to show identification at polling places, along with other new measures. The attorney general says the law will have a “racially discriminatory effect.”
US Attorney General Eric Holder said the state’s law posed
“unwarranted voter restrictions” and “defies common
“I stand here to announce this lawsuit more in sorrow than in anger,” Holder said at a news conference, describing the law as a threat to the democratic process. “It pains me to see the voting rights of my fellow citizens negatively impacted by actions predicated on a rationale that is tenuous at best — and on concerns that we all know are not, in fact, real.”
North Carolina officials have rejected criticism of the law, claiming it will strengthen the vote. The law would require state residents to show an official photo ID at polling places starting in 2016. In addition to the ID policy, the Justice Department (DOJ) is challenging measures that cancel the first seven days of early voting, eliminate same-day voter registration during the early-voting period, and bar counting provisional ballots cast by voters inside their home county but outside of their home voting precinct.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory called the lawsuit an “overreach and without merit” in a response Monday, saying the state will hire an outside law firm to assist its state attorney general in the case.
“I firmly believe we’ve done the right thing. I believe this is good law. And I strongly disagree with the action that the attorney general has taken,” McCrory said.
McCrory injected state’s rights into his reaction, saying he would “defend our right to have common sense laws right here in North Carolina.”
He cited a video that showed President Barack Obama presenting an ID at a polling place in his home precinct in Chicago as proof the DOJ’s lawsuit is political.
“I believe if showing a voter ID is good enough and fair enough for our own president in Illinois, it’s good enough for the people in North Carolina,” he said. “I think it is obviously influenced by national politics since the Justice Department ignores similar laws in other blue states.”
Illinois requires a government-issued ID at polls during the early-voting period, not on Election Day. Obama voted early in 2012, thus he needed to show ID.
The decision to sue follows a US Supreme Court decision earlier this year invalidating part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that demanded jurisdictions with histories of voter discrimination receive approval from the DOJ or a federal court before changing voting laws.
The DOJ is expected to use another section of the landmark law to bring its suit against North Carolina, and a similar suit against Texas. It will seek to again require North Carolina to get prior clearance from the DOJ or courts before any further changes to its voting laws.
Holder said the DOJ will present pertinent evidence that shows the North Carolina law will discriminate against minorities in the state.
“This is an intentional attempt to break a system that was working,” Holder said.