World and Nation

North Carolina governor assails suit on new voting laws

Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina pushed back hard against the Obama administration Monday, saying that a lawsuit by the Justice Department over the state’s restrictive voter identification laws was a politically influenced overreach.

“I thinks it’s obviously influenced by national politics, since the Justice Department ignores similar laws in other blue states throughout the United States of America,” he said in a terse news conference that lasted less than five minutes and presented no opportunity for questions. McCrory, a Republican, said he had to leave to tend to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the possible shutdown of the federal government.

The Justice Department filed suit in U.S. District Court on Monday challenging four parts of the state’s broad new voter laws. The laws at issue require voters to present photo identification at the polls, eliminate same-day registration, reduce the window for early voting and discount provisional ballots cast outside the voter’s home precinct. The court challenge is the second by the Justice Department since a Supreme Court ruling in June that eliminated a provision of the Voting Rights Act requiring eight states with histories of discrimination to obtain permission from the federal government before changing voter laws.

The federal lawsuit against North Carolina, along with two other others filed by the local arms of the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, argues that the state’s new laws will discriminate against minorities, especially black voters.

The lawsuits are not about politics, said Penda Hair of the Advancement Project, which is working with the NAACP on its suit against the state.

“The law that was passed by the governor and the legislature of North Carolina is a horrendous voter suppression law,” she said Monday. “It is blatantly illegal, and it is aimed at voters of color. That’s why there is legal action.”

McCrory did not mention race Monday, but he attacked the Justice Department for being out of step.

“North Carolina is in the mainstream on this issue, and it’s the Justice Department that’s working within the fringes,” he said. He said North Carolina was one of 32 states to offer early voting, one of 34 that already require or will require some form of identification, and one of 37 that do not allow same-day registration.

Voters in North Carolina will be required to present photo ID beginning in 2016. Critics note that the new law does not allow for the use of student IDs, public employee IDs or those issued by public assistance agencies, and say that black voters are less likely than other voters to have IDs issued by the State Division of Motor Vehicles. The state will offer free voter ID cards through that agency beginning next year.