RALEIGH — A federal judge in Washington has rejected a lawsuit filed by a conservative North Carolina legislator seeking to overturn a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Rep. Stephen A. LaRoque, a Republican, and four other Kinston men sued last year claiming that Section 5 of the landmark civil rights law is unconstitutional. The section requires jurisdictions with a past history of racial discrimination to seek pre-approval from the U.S. Justice Department before making changes in voting procedures.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder exercised authority to nullify an effort by LaRoque's group, Kinston Citizens for Non-Partisan Voting, to amend the city's charter to remove party affiliation from the ballot in municipal elections. Most Kinston residents are black, and the group complained that straight-ticket voting favors Democrats.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates rejected the complaint, citing long-established legal precedents that underpin the 2006 revision, the most recent, of the Voting Rights Act. "This Court declines to overturn that careful, well-supported judgment," Bates ruled.
LaRoque's lawyers immediately filed notice that he plans to appeal. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a statement, the president of the N.C. NAACP praised the court's ruling, calling it "a stand for justice and equality."
"Voting rights are under attack across the country," the Rev. William Barber II said. "Fourteen states have already passed voter suppression laws that limit access to the polls and disproportionately impact minorities, poor people, young people, students and the elderly. Minority voting power is under attack through redistricting plans that marginalize minority voters, packing them into a few segregated districts so their influence is muted. We applaud the Court for recognizing the importance of the Voting Rights Act in protecting the right to vote."