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'Truly abominable anti-democratic legislation'

Sweeping new voting restrictions were imposed on North Carolina by state Republican officials.
Asheville, North Carolina's Pack Square Park during Mountain Moral Monday protest on August 5.
Asheville, North Carolina's Pack Square Park during Mountain Moral Monday protest on August 5.

We've been keeping a close eye on the sweeping new voting restrictions imposed on North Carolina by state Republican officials -- if you missed Rachel's segment on last night's show, watch it -- and it's heartening to see the voter-suppression tactics garner broader attention.

The Washington Post editorial board, which is not exactly reflexively liberal, condemned the state's "draconian" new law today in a blistering piece.

The bill includes the usual provisions that have come to characterize the quiet assault on the franchise: a shortened early-voting period, the elimination of the state's successful same-day registration program and, of course, a strict photo identification requirement despite any evidence of voter fraud in the state.What makes this law unique is how much further it goes. It includes no fewer than 12 extra provisions that prohibit such things as counties extending polling hours by one hour in the event of unusual circumstances (such as, say, long lines); provisional voting should someone, say, mistakenly go to the wrong precinct; and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, who could previously register to vote before they turned 18.The bill is a truly abominable piece of anti-democratic legislation, the only likely effect of which will be to make it increasingly difficult -- maybe even impossible -- for some people who don't typically support Republicans to be able to vote.

The Post's editorial board added that the Justice Department should intervene and challenge North Carolina's new restrictions: "Equal access to the franchise is a fundamental pillar of American democracy, and it deserves nothing less than the strongest federal protections."

If the Justice Department agrees, it'll be up to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper to defend the most offensive voting law seen in the United States in a generation -- and that'll be interesting given how much Cooper hates these voting restrictions.

Indeed, the state A.G. is one of a small number of Democrats who still hold prominent positions in North Carolina's state government, and Cooper has been an outspoken critic of Republican efforts to suppress voting rights in the state. Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who signed the restrictions into law despite not understanding them, hasn't been pleased with Cooper's opinions.

Cooper launched a petition on last week to rally opposition to the bill, calling it "regressive elections legislation.""The attorney general gave me his political opinion, not his legal opinion," McCrory said in an interview with WRAL News. [...]The NAACP and other group immediately sued to block the law.... The Attorney General's Office will likely have to defend the law against such court challenges, and McCrory said Cooper's public opposition doesn't help that defense."It is a concern of mine that he has possibly showed a conflict as the chief legal representative of our state in his bringing a case against it and it not being a legal case," McCrory said.

Cooper responded in a statement, "It's the duty of this office to defend state laws in court whether or not I agree with them, and we have an excellent track record. My ultimate duty is to the people of North Carolina, and I'm going to tell them what I think about laws that have an impact on their lives, and that includes trying to stop bad laws and advocating for good ones."

As for the likely outcome of court challenges, there are legal experts who can speak to this with far greater authority than I can, but Duke University professor Guy Charles, who heads the Duke Law Center on Law, Race and Politics, told WRAL that opponents of the new voting restrictions face an uphill climb.

Of course, if five Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices hadn't gutted the Voting Rights Act, this wouldn't be much of an issue.