Earlier this summer the U.S. Supreme Court overturned parts of the 1965 Civil Rights Act, most notably portions of the act that required many Southern states, including North Carolina, to get federal approval prior instituting new redistricting maps for the state, as well as before making certain changes to voting laws.
We think this was the good and right move. Quite frankly, it always rankled the nerves when our state had to go to a federal agency — in this case the U.S. Justice Department — for approval for what was essentially a state issue.
There was a time when these portions of the Civil Rights Act were necessary and needed. Whether you’re for big government or small government, most agree that one legitimate role of the federal government is to ensure the civil rights of all American citizens are protected, even if that protection is in conflict with state laws.
Enacting this legislation was entirely appropriate and needed in 1965, and still was needed in 1975 and perhaps even in 1985. Race relations in America can still be contentious (see the George Zimmerman trial for the latest example), and always will be. But, enough progress has been made that in recent years, at least these portions of the Civil Rights Act, were more of a federal interference in state matters rather than protection of civil rights.
We find much in recently passed voter-related legislation in North Carolina to be regressive and onerous. The General Assembly has taken steps to make it virtually impossible for college students to participate in the voting process, it has made voting more difficult for the general population with limits placed on early voting, and the burdensome voter ID law will disproportionately affect the poor and the elderly while costing the state more than a million to fix a voter fraud problem that simply doesn’t exist.
It’s clear these laws, passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, are aimed squarely at those most likely to vote for Democrat party candidates, thus helping to ensure the GOP stays in power longer. Quite frankly, we would like to see some of these new laws challenged in court, and some of those representative most fervent in their support of these laws thrown out of office. Even state Attorney General Roy Cooper is now urging Gov. Pat McCrory to veto this legislation.
But those are the remedies for people who disagree with those laws — make a change at the ballot box or through the state judicial system, or by urging the governor to use his executive power to stop this disaster.
What is absolutely not appropriate is for the federal government to come into North Carolina and tell us how to run our state, and we fear that is not far down the road.
Already, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is challenging action in Texas that is not too different than what the North Carolina General Assembly is doing. The specifics are different, and there are allegations that some of the redistricting in that state was done in a way that does not give the Hispanic population there representation in a manner that would be consistent with their percentage of the total state population.
But, we fear Holder’s office will soon look at North Carolina and other Southern states with the same intention — to impose his political will over state issues.
Again, we find many of the state’s proposed voting law changes to be distasteful, to say the least, but that’s how the system is supposed to work. We can disagree with General Assembly action, you can disagree with us, but so long as no clear civil rights violations are taking place the federal government should keep its nose out of North Carolina.