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by Jordan Green

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US DOJ sues North Carolina to block restrictive election law

The US Justice Department filed suit to block North Carolina’s new election law in Greensboro on Monday.

The civil complaint filed in the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina alleges that HB 589, which was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on Aug. 12, “was enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of African Americans to vote on account of their race or color,” in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“Against a backdrop of the state’s history of voting discrimination against African Americans and a dramatic increase in the state’s African-American voter turnout rates during the November general elections in 2008 and 2012, North Carolina enacted HB 589 with knowledge of the disproportionate effect that numerous provisions, both singly and together, would have on the equal political participation of minority voters,” the lawsuit contends. “These provisions include the reduction of the early voting period, the elimination of same-day voter registration and the imposition of voter photo identification requirements without reasonable safeguards for voters who face barriers to obtaining such identification.”

The federal government argues that members of the NC General Assembly were aware of the state’s history of voting discrimination, the dramatic increase in black turnout through early voting and same-day registration, and the disproportionate effect of the recent changes when they voted to approve the legislation.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis reacted swiftly to the lawsuit in a prepared statement.

“The Obama Justice Department’s baseless claims about North Carolina’s election reform law are nothing more than an obvious attempt to quash the will of the voters and hinder a hugely popular voter ID requirement,” they said.

The NC NAACP applauded the Justice Department’s intervention. “The Southern strategy of the well-funded, nationallycoordinated ultra-right has convinced many Republican moderates that the only way they can hold on to political power in Washington, and the South, is to drastically suppress voting rights for minorities,” said William J. Barber II, president of the NC NAACP.

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