Lawsuit Against First Discriminatory Voter Law Passed After SCOTUS Shelby Decision Filed


August 12, 2013

CONTACT: Cynthia Gordy, 202-341-0555,


Case Filed as North Carolina Governor Signs Most Far-Reaching Assault on Democracy in the Nation

Statement by Advancement Project Co Director Penda Hair

Today North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed into law HB 589, sweeping legislation that enacts dozens of changes that will make it harder to vote, especially for voters of color, who will be hardest hit by the new restrictions. Among other provisions, the law implements a strict voter ID requirement; cuts early voting by a full week; eliminates same-day registration; prevents valid out-of-precinct ballots from being counted; and expands the ability to challenge voters. North Carolina is the first state since the Supreme Court Voting Rights Act decision to pass a discriminatory voting law.  The Supreme Court decision in Shelby County stopped enforcement of Section 5, which mandated protection against discrimination in jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory laws. Shortly thereafter, North Carolina pushed through this dizzying array of voting restrictions. In announcing the filing of a lawsuit; Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair released the following statement.

We are deeply committed to all Americans having an equal voice in our democracy, and to ensuring that elections in North Carolina remain free, fair and accessible. Advancement Project has joined with North Carolina attorneys Adam Stein and Irv Joyner, and the national law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, to file a legal complaint on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP State Conference and Mrs. Rosanell Eaton, a 92-year-old African American whose ability to vote is threatened by North Carolina’s discriminatory new voting law.

Each of the law’s changes, on their own, would be harmful to the voting rights of North Carolinians. Taken together, this is the worst voter suppression law in the country. It viciously targets nearly every aspect of the voting process. With the stroke of his pen, Gov. McCrory has transformed North Carolina from a state with one of the nation’s most progressive voting systems, where we saw some of the highest voter turnout rates of the last two presidential elections, into a state with the most draconian policies we’ve seen in decades, policies that harken back to the days of Jim Crow. 

The law clearly violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups. It also violates our nation's cherished promise of equality as expressed in the 14th and 15th Amendments of our Constitution.

For example, the provisions that eliminate same-day registration and early-voting will disproportionately impact African American voters. During the 2012 election cycle, 70 percent of African Americans who voted did so through early voting opportunities. Same-day registration and early voting have been highly successful and increasingly preferred by large numbers of the electorate. Yet lawmakers have failed to offer any credible, non-discriminatory reason for eliminating these popular programs, which had made voting more accessible for thousands of voters.

Our plaintiff, 92-year-old Rosanell Eaton, was one of the first African Americans to vote in North Carolina, registering in the 1940s in the days of literacy tests and violent intimidation from the Ku Klux Klan. Despite having voted for more than 70 years, under the new law’s photo ID requirement she may not be able to vote in the next election. Born at home, Ms. Eaton has a current North Carolina driver’s license, but the name on her certified birth certificate does not match the name on her driver’s license, or the name on her voter registration card – which would disqualify her from automatically getting the voter ID card required under the new law.

This law is not about election integrity. There is no evidence of any voter fraud that it would stop. Its only result is to make voting disproportionately harder for voters of color, young people, seniors, people with disabilities and low-income people. This legislation was carefully crafted to block these eligible citizens, and others, from voting. It stands to prevent hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians from casting their ballot and having a voice in our democracy.

The lawsuit will show that these voting changes result in less opportunity for African Americans to vote, and that the Legislature knew that this law would discriminate against African-American voters. We expect that other legal action is likely to be taken in federal or state court to protect Latino citizens and others whose democratic rights are being denied. From the moment that the North Carolina General Assembly first started rolling out its avalanche of voter suppression bills this year, our intention has always been to fight these measures in the courts to ensure that North Carolina’s elections remain free, fair and accessible.

Read the complaint here.