Federal Court Orders N.C. Lawmakers to Release E-Mail Related to Passage of State's Sweeping Voter Suppression Law

Federal Court Orders N.C. Lawmakers to Release E-Mail Related to Passage of State’s Sweeping Voter Suppression Law

March 27, 2014
Shoshannah Sayers, SCSJ, 919-323-3380, ext. 154; ShoshannahSayers@southerncoalition.org
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU National, 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org
Mike Meno, ACLU of North Carolina, 919-834-3466, mmeno@acluofnc.org
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A federal court today ordered North Carolina state lawmakers to release some e-mails and other documents related to the passage of the state’s sweeping voter suppression law. It also rejected North Carolina’s argument that legislators have absolute immunity to keep their documents from the public. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a motion to compel the release of that information after lawmakers refused to do so citing “legislative immunity.”
“North Carolinians have a right to know what motivated their lawmakers to make it harder for them to vote,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Legislators should not be shrouding their intentions in secrecy. The people deserve better.”
Immediately after Gov. Pat McCrory signed the voter suppression bill into law last August, the ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed their legal challenge. The suit targets provisions that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit “out-of-precinct” voting. The groups charge that enacting these provisions would unduly burden the right to vote and discriminate against African-American voters, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Today’s ruling is good news for every North Carolinian who values integrity and transparency in our elections,” said Chris Brook, legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “The public has a right to know how and why officials drafted legislation making it harder for North Carolinians to vote, and with today’s ruling, we can hopefully get to the bottom of those questions.”
The case, League of Women Voters of North Carolina et al. v. North Carolina, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. It was brought on behalf of several North Carolinians who will face substantial hardship under the law, and on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, North Carolina Common Cause, and Unifour Onestop Collaborative, whose efforts to promote voter participation in future elections will be severely hampered.
“Defendants have resisted at every turn disclosing information about their reasons for enacting this discriminatory law. Today’s ruling will help ensure the court has a fuller picture of why the voting changes at stake are so bad for North Carolina voters,” said Southern Coalition for Social Justice attorney Allison Riggs.
The court will hold another hearing to determine whether other categories of documents will be released.
The judge’s order is available here.
More information about this case is available here.