On December 3, U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates, a Bush Jr. appointee, held a hearing in Laroque v Holder, 10-0561. The case is in federal court in Washington, D.C. See this story.
In 2008, the voters of Kinston, North Carolina, voted to change the city’s elections from partisan elections to non-partisan elections. The Voting Rights Section of the U.S. Justice Department refused to approve the change. North Carolina is under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which means that when an election law or practice is changed, the Voting Rights Department must approve the change. Alternatively, the Voting Rights Act permits a covered jurisdiction to ask a federal court in Washington, D.C., to approve the change.
Kinston has a black majority, and the Voting Rights Section felt that a switch from partisan elections to non-partisan elections would harm black voters. The city council of Kinston has not been willing to challenge the decision of the Voting Rights Section. So, on April 7, 2010, five Kinston voters sued the Attorney General of the United States, alleging that section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. The Attorney General’s response is that individual voters do not have standing to do that. Judge Bates is expected to rule quickly on whether the case may proceed. One of the plaintiffs, Klay Northrup, is registered as an independent voter. The case alleges that he is harmed by the failure of the Justice Department to let Kinston have non-partisan elections. He says he would like to run for city council. As an independent, he cannot run without a petition of 4% of the number of registered voters. But, if the city had non-partisan elections, no such burdensome petition would exist for him or any other candidate.