The Supreme Court may have opened the floodgates for unfair voting laws when they dismantled the 1965 Voting Rights Act this June, but the federal government is fighting back — most recently, in North Carolina.
Weeks after the Supreme Court decision, the state passed a law that requires voters to have a photo ID and also shortens the early-voting period. Both restrictions were presumably designed to block poor citizens from voting, potentially helping Republicans win more elections.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department’s decision to sue in a conference Monday.
"The Justice Department expects to show that the clear and intended effects of these changes would contract the electorate and result in unequal access to the participation in the political process on account of race," said Holder.
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Prior to the lawsuit, Holder had already announced intentions to help curb damage from the Supreme Court decision.
"We will not allow the court's action to be interpreted as 'open season' for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights," he said. "We will not hesitate to take appropriately aggressive action against any jurisdiction that attempts to hinder access to the franchise."
North Carolina, like other Southern states enacting similar laws, claims that they are trying to fight voter fraud, and are not discriminating against the poor.
However, voter fraud is extremely rare, and impoverished citizens, many of whom are African-American or Hispanic, are hit hardest by such regulations. These groups are less likely to have photo identification, and may not have reliable transportation to get to the polls on election day — hence the need for early voting.
Said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, “North Carolina is engaging in a blatant attempt to make it harder for hundreds of thousands of eligible voters to cast a ballot. The Justice Department is right to take action against North Carolina's efforts to suppress the vote, particularly among people of color, poor people and students.''