RALEIGH, N.C. - The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that it will file a lawsuit in federal court challenging key provisions of North Carolina’s new election law, widely considered to be the harshest voter suppression law in the nation.
The Justice Department lawsuit will reportedly challenge the law’s cuts to early voting, elimination of same-day voter registration, elimination of “out-of-precinct” voting, and new requirements that voters present forms of photo ID that many eligible voters in North Carolina lack.
In response to today’s announcement, Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, released the following statement:
“We welcome the Justice Department’s challenge to what many observers have rightfully described as the harshest voter suppression law in the country. North Carolina has made tremendous progress in recent years in improving ballot access and increasing voter turnout, but much, if not all, of that progress will be lost if this new law goes into effect. By cutting early voting and eliminating same-day registration, North Carolina’s law will severely restrict ballot access for countless eligible voters, particularly the millions of North Carolinians who vote early and the more than 70 percent of African-American voters who utilized early voting during the 2008 and 2012 general elections. For many voters, especially low-income voters, the choice is between early voting or not voting at all.”
Under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which is still in effect, jurisdictions cannot be allowed to implement changes to voting laws that will have a discriminatory effect on voters of color.
Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, and Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a federal lawsuit, League of Women Voters of North Carolina et al. v. North Carolina, against the state’s voter suppression law on behalf of several North Carolinians who will face substantial hardship under the law, as well as organizations whose efforts to promote voter participation in future elections will be severely hampered if the measure takes effect.
The ACLU suit specifically targets provisions of the law that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit “out-of-precinct” voting. It seeks to stop North Carolina from enacting these provisions, arguing that they would unduly burden the right to vote and discriminate against African-American voters, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
During the 2012 election, 2.5 million ballots were cast during the early voting period in North Carolina, representing more than half the state’s total electorate. More than 70 percent of African-American voters utilized early voting during the 2008 and 2012 general elections.
Eliminating same-day registration and out-of- precinct voting also imposes hardship and silences the people’s voice. In recent elections, North Carolinians could register, or update their registration information, and vote in one trip to an early voting site. In both 2008 and 2012, approximately 250,000 people did so. African Americans disproportionately relied on same-day registration in both elections. North Carolina’s new law eliminates this opportunity to register, creating an enormous barrier for tens of thousands of eligible voters.