The “legal headache” of the Voting Rights Act

Ok here’s some good news though.

(Mind you, it’s the kind of “good” news that’s just the undoing of some bad news, as so much of what passes for “good” news is these days. Or maybe it’s always like that.)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has struck down North Carolina’s horrible voter ID law.

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down North Carolina’s requirement that voters show identification before casting ballots and reinstated an additional week of early voting.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit was an overwhelming victory for the Justice Department and civil rights groups that argued the voting law was designed to dampen the growing political clout of African American voters, who participated in record numbers in elections in 2008 and 2012.

I’m reading Ari Berman’s Give Us the Ballot right now; it’s an excellent account of the moves to suppress all these pesky new brown voters. He says North Carolina’s was the worst of all.

“We can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent,” Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the panel.

Which was the point of the Voting Rights Act – to put an end to that.

The challenge to North Carolina’s law is one of several cases throughout the country seeking to eliminate strict voting rules in place for the first time in the November presidential contest.

Opponents of the law, led by the state NAACP, asked the three-judge panel to reverse a lower-court ruling that upheld the voting rules.

In 2013, North Carolina lawmakers overhauled election law soon after the Supreme Court got rid of a requirement that certain states with a history of discrimination receive approval before changing voting rules. Legislators eliminated same-day voter registration, rolled back of a week of early voting and put an end to out-of-precinct voting.

The ruling in Shelby County v Holder was a green light for new voter suppression laws, and they tumbled out in abundance.

During oral arguments, Judges James A. Wynn Jr. and Henry F. Floyd remarked on the timing of the changes and on comments from a state senator who said lawmakers were no longer restrained by the “legal headache” of the Voting Rights Act.

Uh huh – the “legal headache” that meant legislators couldn’t impose rules that burdened non-white people disproportionately. In a set-up where non-white people are statistically poorer and thus have less easy access to things like cars and the money to pay for picture ID, it’s easy to think up ways to filter them out.

So this ruling is good news.

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