Why is the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division telling the tiny town of Kinston North Carolina that it cannot hold non-partisan elections for city council? This is honestly one of the most confusing and (if one believes that there are actual limits to federal power) unconstitutional government actions I've read of in some time.
The Justice Department has overruled a small North Carolina city's attempt to end the use of party affiliation in local elections, according to a report in The Washington Times.
According to the article, the Justice Department ruled that party affiliations are needed in part to protect equal rights for black voters. The department determined that white voters in Kinston, N.C., would only cast their ballots for black candidates if they run as Democrats.
The Justice Department recognizes (as I do, having visited the town many times) that everyone in Kinston North Carolina is a Democrat. Black, white, yellow, brown, or blue, the odds are that if you run for office, or vote, in Kinston, you're voting for a Democrat, and you're a Democrat yourself.
Of course the Justice Department, under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, has a mandate to monitor elections in counties that were once subject to racial voter discrimination. But given that everyone in Kinston is a Democrat, and everyone who wins elective office in Kinston is a Democrat, why does it matter that candidates for elective office suddenly become … nothing? Names, in fact. People who stand for election based on issues rather than party labels?
According to Abigail Thernstrom of the Civil Rights Commission:
The small city had voted two-to-one to get rid of partisan labels on candidates running for local office, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided such a move was discriminatory. Blacks are a majority of registered voters in Kinston, but they are usually a minority on Election Day. In the eyes of the DOJ, that makes them a racial minority in need of protection. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, they are entitled to constitutionally extraordinary shelter when a change in the method of voting diminishes their opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.
This raises some interesting questions. If black voters are apathetic (they surely weren't in the election gone by, leading North Carolina to send electors for the first Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976), no amount of Justice Department interference is going to cure that apathy. The black populace in Kinston is a clear majority and the town, unlike some in North Carolina I could name, doesn't have an impressive history of atrocities, Klan intimidation, or post-Civil Rights Act discrimination. If people can't be bothered to vote, no one can make them do it.
And how does having a (D) by the name of a candidate protect black voting rights? Is it the position of the Justice Department that party identification is, legally speaking, an inherent quality of being black? Or is the Holder Justice Department just looking out for its own, and I do not mean black people, but Democrats. After all, all of the white people in Kinston are Democrats as well.
But clearly, the Justice Department doesn't have a problem with non-partisan elections in North Carolina in general, though black people are a minority who've suffered discrimination throughout the state. The state has elected appellate judges (all judges in North Carolina are elected) on a non-partisan basis since 2004. The change was pushed by Democrats in the legislature who (though they won't tell you this) wanted to avoid seeing Republicans elected, regardless of qualifications, simply because voters assumed an (R) means law and order, while a (D) means sedition, socialism, and sodomy.
If African-Americans are a minority throughout the state, why do non-partisan judicial elections pass muster with the Justice Department, if non-partisan elections in smaller jurisdictions where African-Americans constitute a clear majority constitute a threat to voting rights?
Will the Justice Department now demand that North Carolina return to statewide partisan judicial races? If not, why not?
I'd hate to think the the Civil Rights Division was composed of partisan hacks.