Federal election lawsuit as a political act

JLF head John Hood writes that the Attorney General Eric Holder challenge to the election law changes passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly amounts to political theater:

By challenging North Carolina’s new election law, the Obama administration is trying to bestow two political gifts. First, the lawsuit furthers the party’s immediate narrative that Republicans are trying to turn the clock back on civil rights, a narrative designed to boost turnout among the Democratic base in 2014. Second, if that gambit fails and the GOP does well in 2014, Democrats will campaign in 2016 on the claim that Republicans actually succeeded in suppressing the vote! Either way, Holder’s actions are best interpreted as political theater, not as a serious attempt to protect voting rights that were never imperiled in the first place.

Both President Obama and Democrats closer to home have some cards to play for the 2014 cycle. I think this is among their weakest. Most North Carolinians, of all races and ages, endorse voter ID as a commonsense protection against voter fraud. Most independent studies show that neither it nor most of the other provisions at issue are likely to have a significant effect on voter turnout. The only exception, same-day registration during early voting, is exceedingly rare. The chance that a federal appeals court will find it mandatory under the Voting Rights Act is vanishingly small.

Republicans in Washington have drawn criticism for picking a federal budget fight they can’t win. On voter ID and election law, however, that’s exactly what the Obama administration and its allies have done.

Michael Lowrey

Michael Lowrey is a contributor to Carolina Journal and a policy analyst for the John Locke Foundation. Lowrey has written numerous articles for the foundation on topics su...