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By Whitney Allen
April 4, 2014
Credit : AP/Gerry Broome.


The case against North Carolina’s new voter restriction laws has taken a significant step forward. Last week, a federal judge ruled that North Carolina legislators must release email correspondence that discussed the bill before it was passed.

The effort to subpoena the legislators’ emails is part of the necessary change of tactics in the fight against voter suppression since the Supreme Court struck down Section IV of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Where those bringing a case against a particular law formerly only had to prove that the law had a discriminatory effect, now they must prove it was the intent of lawmakers to discriminate against a certain group when making a change to voting procedure.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake found that, while some correspondence materials can be protected, any emails from legislators to a “third party” other than staffers or attorneys are public record and must be presented as evidence. If any of the emails contain references to particular groups being targeted by the law, the future of the law itself will be greatly undermined.

“North Carolinians have a right to know what motivated their lawmakers to make it harder for them to vote,” Dale Ho said, Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Legislators should not be shrouding their intentions in secrecy.”

North Carolina’s law is considered the most aggressive voter suppression law in the country, containing not just stricter voter ID requirements, but cuts to voter education and registration drives, early voting, and same-day registration.

It is significant that intent must be proven in this case, since it has been widely proven that the law will have a disproportionate impact on voters of color.

“When you look at all this together, it is, in fact, the worst voter suppression law since the days of Jim Crow,” Rev. William Barber II said, President of the North Carolina NAACP.

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