NEW YORK North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said he will "vigorously defend" his state's new voting reform law that is now under challenge by the U.S. Justice Department.
Responding to the lawsuit calling the state's photo ID law discriminatory and regressive, McCrory said, "The federal government's action is an overreach and without merit."
"This lawsuit will only result in costly legal bills and drawn out legal battles battles for both state and federal taxpayers," McCrory said.
When North Carolina passed its strict photo voter ID law in July, it became the 13th state to do so in the past three years and the first since the Supreme Court in June struck down sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that granted the federal government de facto veto authority over election law changes in states where segregation was legal until the 1960s.
The Justice Department's in Greensboro, N.C., federal court objects not only to a new voter photo ID requirement but also to the reduction nearly by half in the number of days of early voting, the elimination of same day registration during the early voting period, and the rejection of "otherwise legitimate" provisional ballots cast in precincts where registered voters are not assigned to vote.
"The Justice Department expects to show that the clear and intended effects of these changes would contract the electorate and result in unequal access to participation in the political process on account of race," said Attorney General Eric Holder in his remarks, in Washington, announcing the suit.
The lawsuit cites North Carolina's own election board statistics to argue that black voters in its would face disproportionate harm from the law, because they benefit disproportionately from early voting and same day registration.
For example, 70 percent of black voters who participated in the 2008 and 2012 elections did so in the 17-day early voting period, according to state election data. Overall, the percentage of black turnout exceeded white voter turnout both years. While comprising 22 percent of the electorate, black voters were 35 percent of the same-day registrants during early voting, according to state records, and twice as likely as white voters to use the method.
"Allowing limits on voting rights that disproportionately exclude minority voters would be inconsistent with our ideals as a nation," said Holder, who alluded to the partisan intent of the state's Republican leadership. Nine out of 10 black voters in North Carolina voted for President Obama twice, according to exit polls, when he carried the state in 2008 and when he fell short to Mitt Romney in 2012.
"The North Carolina General Assembly enacted this legislation despite having evidence before it that these changes would make it harder for many minority voters to participate in the electoral process," Holder said.
McCrory, a Republican former mayor of Charlotte who was elected last November, along with Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, said his state was targeted by a Democratic administration driven by partisanship.