North Carolina's Republican Governor, Pat McGrory, predictably claimed Monday that the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit against the state's transparently discriminatory elections law is a partisan attack by the Obama administration, one that he will fight aggressively in court. In fact, the lawsuit constitutes nothing more than what the Justice Department is supposed to do and has done, off and on, since the 1960s: Protect the civil rights of disenfranchised minorities.
The state's election law cuts early voting by a week, ends same-day voter registration, and includes a needlessly strict photo ID requirement. (It also eliminates a popular high school civics program encouraging students to register to vote. After all, why generate enthusiasm among young people to participate in their democracy?) It is no coincidence that more than 70 percent of African-Americans in North Carolina voted early during the last two presidential elections. It is also true that minority voters, a large number of whom live in cities and use public transportation, are more likely than whites to lack a driver's license for identification.
Governor McGrory and the Republican Legislature assert that the new laws are in response to the problem of "voter fraud," but are unable to provide concrete examples of it. The same goes for the states of Kansas, Arizona and Missouri, among others, which cite abstract examples of voter fraud in efforts to keep minority residents, who statistically tend to vote Democratic, away from the voting booths.
In perhaps the worst of many bad U.S. Supreme Court decisions in recent years, the court's right wing voted 5-to-4 earlier this year to release states with a proven record of depriving minorities of their voting rights from federal oversight over their elections. Not surprisingly, those states, North Carolina and Texas prominent among them, have wasted no time in bringing Jim Crow laws out of mothballs. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has accused the North Carolina Legislature of taking "aggressive steps to curtail the voting rights of African-Americans" and making "an intentional attempt to break a system that was working." The Justice Department lawsuit is a necessary corrective.
Governor McGrory was in the audience in August when former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, an African-American and moderate Republican, eviscerated the state's new election laws at a forum in Raleigh, North Carolina. "I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote," declared Mr. Powell. That would be the American way, but it is not a belief that all American elected officials support.