Last month, the Justice Department asked for an injunction to prevent the state of North Carolina from implementing changes the legislators made to state election law. The lawsuit, first filed in 2013, is backed by the NAACP and the League of Women Voters, and claims that the new law–namely, its strict voter ID requirement–was passed in violation of the 14th, 15th, and 16th Amendments, as well as section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

However, a federal district judge has ruled against the DoJ, which means that North Carolina’s new election laws will be in force for the midterm elections come November.

The court held that, although the DoJ’s lawsuit has merit (meaning that the court can’t justify simply dismissing it,) attorneys for the plaintiffs failed to provide a “clear showing” of entitlement (meaning that they failed to show the court that they would succeed on the merits of their legal claims.) The court also said that, with regards to several of the claims, the plaintiffs had failed to show that they would suffer irreparable harm before trial in the absence of an injunction.

North Carolina’s new election laws contain a complete overhaul of the state’s policies. Although the main point of contention rests with the new voter ID laws, the bill also reforms existing law. From the opinion:

Apart from the voter ID provisions, which were new, the bill largely purported to repeal, amend, or update existing law. Other amendments included:
(1) making it illegal to compensate persons collecting voter registrations based on the number of forms submitted (Part 14);
(2) reducing the number of signatures required to become a candidate in a party primary (Part 22);
(3) deleting obsolete provisions about the 2000 census (Part 27)
(4) changing the order of candidates appearing on the ballot (Part 31);
(5) eliminating straight-ticket voting (Part 32);
(6) moving the date of the North Carolina presidential primary earlier in the year (Part 35);
(7) eliminating taxpayer funding for appellate judicial elections (Part 38);
(8) allowing funeral homes to participate in canceling voter registrations of deceased persons (Part 39); and
(9) requiring provisional ballots to be marked as such for later identification (Part 52).

The bill also proposed mandating that several matters be referred for further study, including requiring the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee to examine whether to maintain the State’s current runoff system in party primaries. (Part 28.)

True to form, the plaintiffs in the case are arguing that the new law is discriminatory, and will prevent African American and other minorities from exercising their right to vote.

Election lawyer J. Christian Adams had this to say about the Justice Department’s case against voter accountability:

The Justice Department actually used your tax dollars to pay for an expert to introduce the turnout-doesn’t-matter-because-life-is-harder argument. Enterprising folks will submit a Freedom of Information request to find out how many tens of thousands of dollars that nonsense costs you.

According to the NCSL, 34 states have passed some sort of voter ID requirement, and 31 of those states have actually been able to put those requirements into effect. Earlier this year, a federal judge struck down similar legislation passed in Wisconsin, and a lack of consensus in the courts suggests that states’ latest efforts to protect the integrity of elections could soon be heading for further scrutiny by the Supreme Court.

If North Carolina loses this fight, it’s possible that the Justice Department will be able to force North Carolina to abandon the new laws entirely, and allow “federal observers” to monitor future elections in North Carolina.

You can read the full decision here.


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