DECEMBER 11, 2013
Motion for Intervention aims to prevent DOJ from requiring pre-clearance to enforce election integrity provisions of HB 589
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has filed a Motion for Intervention with its client Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill to defend North Carolina against an Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit. The DOJ seeks to prevent enforcement of HB 589, which requires, among other election integrity measures, that voters present a photo ID before casting a ballot. In addition to representing Judicial Watch members in North Carolina, the Intervention seeks to protect the interests of Ms. Gallegos-Merrill, who was a Republican candidate for local office in North Carolina who likely lost her race because of voting irregularities that would be addressed by HB 589.
According to Judicial Watch’s motion:
In 2012, [Gallegos-Merrill] ran for County Commissioner of Buncombe County and lost a very close election. She alleges that this loss was due to same-day registration during early voting and to improperly cast ballots…. Merrill has made concrete plans to run again for that office in 2014 and has taken steps to make that happen…. Any ruling from this Court reversing the repeal of same-day registration during early voting or enjoining the enforcement of North Carolina’s photo ID law, would “impair or impede” Merrill’s interests including her immediate electoral prospects for 2014.
On July 25, 2013, both houses of the North Carolina Legislature passed the Voter Information Verification Act (HB 589) popularly known as the “voter ID law,” overhauling the state’s election laws. The bill’s provisions require photo identification for in-person voting; eliminate same-day registration during early voting; reduce the number of days of early voting; and require provisional ballots to be cast in the proper precinct.
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 photo ID law. A former Holder spokesman, Matt Miller, said the next day that “[f]rom 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 (and former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights) 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.”
When HB 589 was signed into law on August 12, two private lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court. A complaint by the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) alleged violations of the 14th and 15th Amendments and the Voting Rights Act (VRA). A complaint by the League of Women Voters also alleged violations of the 14th Amendment and the VRA. On September 30, the DOJ filed its complaint, asking the court to require federal pre-clearance before the state could enforce the HB 589 provisions. On November 26, the DOJ moved to consolidate all three cases.
In its Motion for Intervention, Judicial Watch argues:
The photo ID law at issue seeks, among other things, to prevent voter fraud. Where there is such fraud, North Carolina voters are harmed by having their votes diluted. In considering Indiana’s photo ID law, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit noted that “[t]he purpose of the Indiana law is to reduce voting fraud, and voting fraud impairs the right of legitimate voters to vote by diluting their votes – dilution being recognized to be an impairment of the right to vote.”… North Carolina’s voters, including Merrill, are threatened with the same kind of injury.
Judicial Watch’s actions in North Carolina are part of its continuing Election Integrity Project. According to a comprehensive Judicial Watch investigation, in addition to North Carolina, a number of other states also appear to have problems with inaccurate voter registration lists, including: Mississippi, Iowa, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alabama, and California. Judicial Watch has put election officials on notice in these states that they must maintain accurate voter registration lists consistent with Section 8 of the NVRA or face litigation to enforce the federal law. It has already taken legal action in Indiana, Ohio, and Florida to help prevent voter fraud.
Lead attorney for Judicial Watch is Robert Popper, former Deputy Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ. Popper is assisted by Christopher Coates, former Chief of the Voting Rights Section of the DOJ. Local counsel is Gene Johnson.
“The Obama Justice Department is clearly hostile to the idea of one person, one vote, one time,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is shameful that the Justice Department is now in court trying to stop North Carolina from fulfilling its legal obligation to prevent ineligible voters from committing voter fraud. Candidates, such as our client Ms. Gallegos-Merrill, have a right to expect to compete in clean elections. And we look forward to defending the voting rights of our supporters throughout the nation, the rule of law, and election integrity from an unprecedented attack from this highly politicized Justice Department.”