Justice Department sues North Carolina
Attorney Eric General Holder announced on Monday September 30 that the Justice Department will sue to bar several provisions of North Carolina’s new voting regulations law. The law, passed by Republican Governor Pat McCrory in North Carolina this past August, includes provisions which require a government-issued ID, shorten early voting by one week, cease day-of voter registration, prevent pre-registration of underage voters who will be 18 before an election, and ease access to absentee ballots (Washington Post, “North Carolina governor signs extensive Voter ID law,” 8.12.13).
The law was passed after the Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down part of the 1956 Voting Rights Act. The Act required states whose voting laws were historically discriminatory to minority groups get federal permission before changing their election policies. (Associated Press, “NC Republicans Vow to Fight US DOJ Over Voter Laws,” 9.30.13).
Critics of the law contend that it will obstruct young, low-income, or minority voters. According to the Associated Press, 70 percent of African-American people who voted last year in North Carolina did so during the early voting period. Also according to the AP report, low-income and minority voters are also less likely to possess a driver’s license.
Gov. McCrory asserts that the law reflects national trends in states’ voting laws, and that some provisions, like shortening early voting, will save money. One aspect of the law, requiring ID, was described by Gov. McCrory as reasonable. (Reuters, “Obama administration sues to block North Carolina voter law,” 9.30.13).
According to the Reuters report, the Department of Justice’s challenge will be issued in a federal court in North Carolina and will appeal to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting policies.
As the controversy continues, Gov. McCrory emphasizes that the laws standardize North Carolina’s procedures. According to the Washington Post, the majority of states have some voting law requiring photo ID. Meanwhile, Attorney General Holder posits that members of minority groups will suffer restrictions of their freedoms due to parts of the law, including its unusually strict ID requirement and of curtailment of voting.
—Bitsy Dean, Guest Reporter
Government shuts down temporarily
For the first time since 1995 the federal government has shut down. Congress failed to come to an agreement concerning a budget resolution that would fund Obama’s health-care initiative.
The closure means that federal workers will be furloughed Tuesday and over a million other workers will be asked to work with no pay at all. National parks, monuments, and museums will all be closed. Additionally, Congressional hearings are all postponed, including one scheduled that concerns last month’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. President Obama did manage to approve a bill prior to the shutdown that enables active-duty troops to continue to receive pay (NY Times, “Government Shuts Down in Budget Impasse”, 9.30.13.).
During the final hours before the deadline, House Republicans passed a proposal that sought to delay the passing of the “individual mandate” which requires all Americans to obtain health insurance. The Democratic-led Senate promptly rejected this.
On Tuesday, Obama addressed the situation saying, “At midnight last night, for the first time in 17 years, Republicans in Congress chose to shut down the federal government.” He additionally noted, “I’ll work with anybody who’s got a serious idea to make the Affordable Care Act work better,” he said. “But as long as I am president I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican Party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hardworking Americans.” (Washington Post, “FULL TRANSCRIPT: President Obama’s Oct. 1 remarks on the government shutdown and Obamacare”, 10.01.13.).
Congress is continuing to work on a resolution, but the Washington Post reports that the shutdown is predicted to last at least a week. (Washington Post, “Shutdown begins: Stalemate forces first U.S. Government closure in 17 years”, 10.01.13). The last shutdown to occur lasted 27 days.
—Debbie Altman, Guest Reporter