North Carolina Next?

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It seems pretty clear that the Justice Department is testing out the extent of its powers under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act against Texas first because Texas is a much stronger case. It’s not easy to prove intentional discrimination, which is the bar that DOJ must now meet, since the Supreme Court’s June decision that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. But lucky for DOJ, a federal court has already ruled in an earlier case that a Texas redistricting map was deliberately discriminatory. That gives DOJ a leg up as it argues that Texas should be subjected to stricter oversight under the law. Today’s new effort by DOJ to block the Texas voter ID law follows the same basic theory.Not to minimize Texas — it’s a big state with significant black and Hispanic populations and political symbolism as a deep blue red state with a governor prone to threatening secession — but the game here is bigger than Texas. If DOJ can’t prevail under Section 2 in Texas, then its power will be severely limited, and other (mostly southern states) are likely going to be beyond DOJ’s reach — unless they embark on new, deliberate discrimination schemes.

Which brings us to North Carolina, where the GOP takeover of the statehouse in November has resulted in a host of voting law changes that are adverse to minority voters, including its own voter ID law. A clash between the new GOP government in Raleigh, the scene of weekly protests for months, and the Obama Justice Department over voting laws would be a dramatic confrontation. That looks like where this is all headed.

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