A federal judge has upheld a section of the U.S. Voting Rights Act that Rep. Stephen LaRoque and some Kinston voters had challenged.
Kinston officials voted to switch the city’s elections from partisan to non-partisan, but the U.S. Justice Department refused to allow that change, saying it would adversely affect the rights of black voters. The Kinston City Council refused to challenge the Justice Department’s decision, so LaRoque, R-Lenoir, and others took up the banner.
They argued that Congress exceeded its authority in re-authorizing a section of the act five years ago and that amendments to the section violated constitutional guarantees of non-discrimination.
U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington, D.C., ruled Thursday that the section of the Voting Rights Act in question is valid.
Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, called the ruling "a stand for justice and equality."
"Voting rights are under attack across the country," Barber said in a statement. "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."
LaRoque said he plans to appeal the ruling.