Voting Rights
7:32 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Justice Department Suit Will Have No Immediate Impact on NC Elections

The Justice Department's challenge to NC's new elections law will not affect this fall's elections.
The Justice Department's challenge to NC's new elections law will not affect this fall's elections.
Credit Joe Hall via flickr
North Carolina's Republican governor and lawmakers are vowing to fight a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department Monday.  The suit challenges the state's tough new elections law on the grounds it disproportionately impacts minority voters.   The law cuts early voting by a week, ends same-day voter registration and includes a stringent photo ID requirement.  John Dinan, professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, says this fall's elections will not be affected by the lawsuit.  "There's no immediate affect of the filing of this lawsuit," he says, "for the main point being that most of the challenged provisions weren't set to take effect until the 2014 election in some cases, and in the case of the voter ID provision not until the 2016 election.  So there's plenty of time to work this way through the courts and see how the courts rule on it." Four parts of the restrictive election law are being challenged.  It was passed this summer, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that repealed a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  As a result of that ruling, the burden of proof is now on the federal government to prove discriminatory intent on the part of North Carolina lawmakers.   The Justice Department has asked for two things in their challenge. "They've asked the court to enjoin enforcement of these challenged provisions," says Dinan. "They've also asked that if the Court finds that the law was passed with discriminatory intent, to make use of section 3 of the Voting Rights Act, essentially restoring the state of affairs prior to the Supreme Court decision this summer." Dinan says that would be a significant effect, since North Carolina would then again have to receive permission from the Justice Department  or federal court before implementing any future voting reform changes. Gov. Pat McCrory says the federal complaint filed Monday is an overreach and without merit. McCrory says he has hired private lawyers to help defend the new law from what he suggested was a partisan attack by President Barack Obama's Democratic administration.