By Nigel Boys
In an attempt to stop a new state law in North Carolina which will require voters to produce photo identification before they are allowed to cast a ballot and would limit early voting, the U.S. Justice Department is suing the state because the new law would discriminate against minorities.
This is the second time in the last few months that a Republican-led state voting law has been challenged by the Democratic Obama administration. A 2011 Texas voter-identification measure was sued by the government in August this year.
The new North Carolina law which would reduce early voting days, eliminates same-day registration during the early-voting period and requires voters to produce photo identification imposes several “troubling new restrictions,” according to Attorney General, Eric Holder.
During a news conference announcing the lawsuit, Holder said that “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.” Holder was joined by federal prosecutors based in North Carolina.
According to Republicans, the new laws are required to fight against voter fraud but Democrats say that the new laws are discriminatory because they are intended to make it harder for blacks and other voters who are likely to vote for Democratic candidates to vote.
The new North Carolina voting measures were signed into law by Republican Governor Pat McCrory in August. McCrory said that the protection of the rights to vote by requiring photo identification is not out of the ordinary because it is common practice to have to produce photo ID when boarding an airplane or buying common decongestants like Sudafed.
As soon as the new law was signed, civil rights groups filed lawsuits against it and Kay Hagan, the Democratic Senator for North Carolina asked the Justice Department to look into the issue.
According to the Justice Department, over 70 percent of blacks who voted in the November 2008 and 2012 elections in North Carolina did so during the early voting period that is allowed in some states including North Carolina, because it is more convenient for them to vote early.
The Justice Department further states that although blacks only make up 23 percent of the state of North Carolina’s registered voters, they account for 34 percent of the registered voters who do not have a valid driver’s license or other photo identification.
A federal judge in Winston-Salem, North Carolina has been assigned the lawsuit.