SEPTEMBER 25, 2014
New amicus filing counters Justice Department, cites study showing minority voter turnout has increased since passage of North Carolina’s election integrity bill
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on September 17, 2014, it filed an amicus curiae brief, on its own behalf and on behalf of the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) and Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill, with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit asking the Court to uphold a District Court denial of a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of HB 589, the state of North Carolina’s election integrity reform bill.
On September 9, the Court of Appeals denied a motion to issue an emergency temporary injunction against implementation of HB 589, but agreed to consider a full appeal before the November 2014 elections. The appeals court panel is today hearing oral argument on the matter (League of Women Voters of North Carolina et al. v State of North Carolina, et al. (No. 14-1845).
In August 2013, North Carolina adopted HB 589, which requires a photo ID to cast a vote, eliminates Election Day voter registration (commonly described as same-day registration), reduces the number of days of early voting, and requires provisional ballots to be cast in the precinct in which the voter is registered. In September 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), along with private plaintiffs including the NAACP and the League of Women Voters, asked the court to enjoin the latter three provisions under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). In June 2014, Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae brief with the District Court, which included an expert’s report showing that, contrary to DOJ arguments, black turnout actually increased in the only major election held in North Carolina since the passage of HB 589. In August, the District Court, which allowed Judicial Watch lawyers to present arguments at a key hearing, ruled against the DOJ. The plaintiffs immediately appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The lower court ruling was a significant setback for the Holder DOJ and its leftist allies. Respected civil rights lawyer Chris Coates, who served as Chief of the Voting Rights Section of the Justice Department under President Obama, has been serving as lead counsel for Judicial Watch and its amicus partners.
The new court filing argues that if the ACLU were to succeed, it “would have a chilling effect on voter confidence in the integrity of elections, both in North Carolina and nationwide,” adding:
If North Carolina is compelled to reinstate same-day registration, to extend the early voting period by a week, and to permit out-of-precinct provisional ballots, many North Carolina citizens could have their votes diluted by unlawful ballots cast in the names of false or duplicate registrations. Furthermore, Plaintiffs-Appellants’ requested relief will undermine the confidence in the integrity of elections among citizens.
Judicial Watch’s legal team also note there is no evidence that the laws at issue harmed minority interests:
In May 2014, a primary election was held in North Carolina. It was the first election of any kind held pursuant to the provisions of HB 589. Notwithstanding 900 or so pages of plaintiffs’ expert reports forecasting that HB 589 would inflict numerous burdens on North Carolina’s voters, voter turnout actually increased in the May 2014 primary over the previous midterm primary in May 2010 – and, by every measure, black turnout increased faster than general turnout.
The filing also questions whether the challengers to the election integrity law have any real reason to complain about “burdens” on voters. The law merely
[R]equires voters to register 25 days in advance of an election. As the District Court noted, this actually extends the registration cut-off authorized by Congress by an additional five days. Second, under HB 589, North Carolina voters may not utilize same-day registration. In this regard, their circumstances are like those of the voters of 36 other states. Third, North Carolina voters must ‘early vote’ during the adjusted ten-day period. Of course, many states do not offer any early voting, and the United States has conceded that the failure to offer it does not, in itself, violate Section 2. The Justice Department, moreover, has pre-cleared state law changes significantly restricting early voting. Fourth, under HB 589, North Carolina voters must vote in their own precinct – as must the voters in a majority of other states. In each instance, the prospect of successfully registering and voting remains comfortably within the control of individual voters.
The Obama Justice Department attack on HB 589 was not unexpected. On the day the bill passed, Attorney General Eric Holder in a speech to the National Urban League concerning the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby Co. v. Holder said that a DOJ voting rights lawsuit against Texas “is the Department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last.” This statement was widely seen as a reference to a potential lawsuit against North Carolina over its election integrity law. Former Holder spokesman Matt Miller said the next day: “From everything I’ve read, the writing’s on the wall that the North Carolina law is going to draw a DOJ challenge.”
On July 29, 2013, a group of political activists attended a meeting at the White House with Attorney General Holder, Labor Secretary (formerly Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division) Tom Perez, and President Obama. Those attending included representatives from the ACLU, the NAACP, and Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton subsequently told MSNBC that, based upon what he heard at the “unprecedented” meeting, he expected action regarding North Carolina “when this governor signs the bill.” Sure enough, on September 30, the DOJ filed its complaint, asking the court to require federal pre-clearance before North Carolina could enforce HB 589 or any future changes in the State’s voting laws.
“The Obama administration’s assault on election integrity is based on the race-baiting lie that election integrity measures suppress and hurt minority voting. In North Carolina, we looked at actual voting data and showed that North Carolina’s election integrity measures actually resulted in a dramatic increase in minority turnout,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The case is typical of Eric Holder’s tenure as Attorney General, which has been stained by divisive appeals to race as part of a partisan effort to undermine clean elections. News of his retirement is welcome.”
The Allied Educational Foundation is a charitable and educational foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life through education. In furtherance of that goal, the Foundation has engaged in a number of projects, including educational and health conferences domestically and abroad. AEF has frequently partnered with Judicial Watch to fight government corruption.
Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill ran for County Commissioner of Buncombe County in 2012 and lost a very close election. She believes that this loss was due to same-day registration during early voting and to improperly cast ballots.