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  • The Politicization of Justice: Kinston, North Carolina

    The Washington Time’s lead story today is about the Justice Department’s objection to a change of elections in Kinston, North Carolina. Why is this an important story? Because it is another worrisome sign of how the Holder Civil Rights Division is using the Voting Rights Act to benefit a political party instead of to protect voters. Kinston is a majority black town, and in November of 2008 its citizens voted 2 to 1 to change their city council elections from partisan to nonpartisan. It is also a one party town – all elected members of the city council and the mayor are Democrats. Yet despite its overwhelming support by the voters of the town, the Civil Rights Division objected to the change to nonpartisan elections under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because it would potentially hurt Democratic candidates.

    I wrote about this in September at National Review, but the Times story today is a must-read for newly-discovered details. Particularly relevant is the admission by a black member of the city council that “nothing is stopping black voters in Kinston from going to the polls” other than apathy. In other words, there are absolutely no barriers of any kind preventing blacks from voting, which is what the Voting Rights Act is intended to achieve. Even the head of the local NAACP expresses skepticism about DOJ’s involvement. The DOJ is improperly using the Voting Rights Act to guarantee that Democratic candidates win elections, rather than using it as intended to ensure that minority voters have the same opportunity as other voters to get to the polls and elect their candidate of choice.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to The Politicization of Justice: Kinston, North Carolina

    1. Gigi Jones, The Sout says:

      I doubt seriously that the DOJ is motivated by a need to make sure a tiny place like Kinston, NC votes Democrat. I think there is something missing from your story (the truth, maybe?) of why the department decided to take this action at this time. You have made something very complex sound simple, in a disparate attempt on your part to paint all things related to civil rights with a broad brushstroke.

      If you aren't a reporter, who goes in and gets the whole story, why do you bother writing half-stories? And then you recommend people go and read the NYT? Boy, you are just all over the place politically, aren't you? Don't you know your boys don't read the NYT?

    2. Rod Sullivan, Profes says:

      People need to be forewarned that in 2010 a census will be taken, and that in 2012 the states will be redistricted. I have long feared that the Obama Administration will use the pre-clearance provisions of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as a political tool to deprive Republican voters of their right to vote in free and fair elections.

      The Kinston case is the first example of what is to come. There will be more.

    3. Jason Deans says:

      Please help our conservative candidate running for Mayor of Kinston. Only man who will fight for fair elections in Kinston.

      Please donate.

      http://www.murphyformayor.com/

    4. Debbie in San Diego says:

      Kinston is 2/3rds black and voted a year ago to list candidates without requiring them to belong to a party, Democratic, Republican or otherwise. Sounds like the blacks in Kinston do not care about party affiliation. Kodos for them! It's about time we look beyond party affiliation and simply look at the candidates for their ability to lead and get things done on behalf of the people. If Kinston residents wanted partisan candidates, they would have voted no to the non-partisan proposal. I see no Civil Rights being violated because there are no facts brought forth by DOJ to indicate intimidation or denial of access to voting last year. And a non-partisan ballot in the future does not prevent Kinston residents from getting informed about the candidates running for office. So I don't see why DOJ even got involved?

    5. Jeff, Pittsburgh says:

      its all a conspiracy! aaah! Quick, run, before the Obamabots get you! Hide! its all an evil plot! We all know the first step in the communoislamofascist takeover of america is making sure that black people can vote. Maybe step two is putting little red "R"s and "D"s next to their names.

      Honestly, people. Grow up.

    6. John, Seattle says:

      SCARY! BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.

      You can vote however you want…as long as it's for a Democrat.

    7. Casey, Wilmington, N says:

      @Gigi, This article isn't bad, but it is just kind of an "aerial overview". Here is an article from the Washington Times that "zooms in" a bit more and will lay out some more details.

      http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/oct/20/j

      Hope that helps :)

    8. Valeria Truitt, New says:

      If the letter from the Justice Department employee, a Loretta King, was quoted accurately in the Washington Times, there's more to the story than favoring one political party over another. Perhaps King has some personal axe to grind?

      Most towns in North Carolina have non-partisan municipal elections. Often, it's difficult to persuade candidates to run for city offices at all–and if it were required that each party field candidates and that only one candidate per party could run, there wouldn't be a contest. People who are elected tend to keep their seats term after term. All of this tends to lead to voter apathy–which the City of Kinston tried to overcome. Perhaps we shall overcome one day, but not if the Justice Department continues to provide that sort of help.

      Down the road in New Bern, which has non-partisan city elections, the mayor is in a runoff and only one member of the Board of Aldermen was reelected in the October election. While the lines at the polls were far from out the door and around the corner, voter apathy clearly was not a factor.

      One elected member of Kinston's governing body stated that he thought Kinston's method of electing all representatives "at large"–every voter votes for candidates for all seats rather than voting only for one's own representatives by ward or precinct–is a bigger problem than partisanship. I have to agree with him, and I wonder if that situation will be addressed any time soon. And if it is, will the Justice Department hand down another incomprehensible ruling, since they have to agree (per the 1965 court order) to any changes made in the way Kinston holds its elections?

    9. BJ Murphy, Kinston N says:

      As a Republican, I'm the only candidate in a three-man race that has supported nonpartisan elections for Kinston. Kinston voters approved it by a margin of 2 to 1 last year. In almost every election we have candidates who are more concerned with which party they've got to run under than the issues facing the city. That's why I helped go door-to-door collecting signatures to force it on the ballot last year. The USDOJ ruling needs to be overturned.

      Check out our campaign's website: http://www.MurphyforMayor.com

    10. Derek says:

      The letter in question:

      http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/sec_5/ltr/l_08170

      Where is the ACLU on this? Is this not a violation of civil liberties??

    11. Mike, Raleigh says:

      Gigi, I doubt seriously that you read this article and I can say with certainty that you didn't read the news account of this event, since it's in the WASHINGTON Times, not the NY Times as you referenced in your comment. I always appreciate an apposing opinion to keep editorialists honest, I just wish there was something worthwhile in yours. The Foundry is spot on. The DOJ's actions are transparently partisan and serve no positive purpose.

    12. Pat-San Antonio says:

      This is just another intrusion by the government into issues where they have no right to intrude. Is the Democratic party so desperate that they have to resort to rigging elections in tiny towns? Eric Holder should be run out of Washington in disgrace. What a prime example of Obama appointees.

    13. Ray, Savannah, GA says:

      I have family in Kinston, and therefore had a quite an interest in this story when it broke. I'm glad to see there have been enough comments to set Gigi straight–obviously, from people who actually read the Times article.

    14. Joe - Billings MT says:

      Seems to me that the people of the town spoke in a free election and the DOJ just said "We don't care what the people want!!!"

      Maybe this will turn into voter apathy and with good reason.

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