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Justice Department to Sue North Carolina Over Restrictive Voter ID Law

Eric HolderThe U.S. Justice Department has set its sights on North Carolina, preparing to go to court today to sue the state over its new voting law that requires residents to show a photo ID before they can vote.

It is the Justice Department’s latest salvo in its efforts to fight Republicans over attempts to restrict voting rights following the June U.S. Supreme Court decision. The Roberts court invalidated a key section of the Voting Rights Act that required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to receive approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before they could make such changes to their voting laws. The Justice Department previously went after Texas, going to the courts last month to stop that state from implementing a restrictive voting law.

According to media reports, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is set to announce the lawsuit today at a Washington news conference. Holder has warned  that the administration “will not hesitate to take appropriately aggressive action against any jurisdiction that attempts to hinder access to the franchise.”

North Carolina’s law was signed last month by the state’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, who said he was protecting the integrity of the election process by stopping voter fraud, the argument that Republicans have consistently used in passing restrictive new laws. It was immediately challenged in a suit brought by the Advancement Project and the North Carolina NAACP that argued the law will make it harder to vote and racial minorities will be disproportionately affected because they are less likely to have the forms of photo ID required by the law. They also argued that voter fraud is not a significant problem in the state.

Last year The Washington Post reported that News21, a national investigative reporting project based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, reviewed 2,068 reported fraud cases since 2000 and found just 10 incidents in which in-person voter impersonation occurred. The project noted that with 146 million registered voters, the results represented about one case of fraud for every 15 million prospective voters.

The Justice Department will challenge four provisions of North Carolina’s voting law, a source told the Washington Post: the strict voter-ID requirements; the elimination of the first seven days of early voting; the elimination of same-day voter registration during the early voting period; and the prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast by voters in their home county but outside their home voting precinct.The department will also ask the courts to require North Carolina once again to get clearance in advance of any changes to its voting laws.

The Supreme Court ruled that Congress must come up with a new formula to determine the states that should be subject to special scrutiny, which previously had been required in nine states and parts of seven other states.

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