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N.C. literacy test rule needs to finally go

Voting changes N.C. lawmakers are pushing this year have conjured up images for opponents of suppression tactics reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. But North Carolina has on the books a constitutional requirement which is indeed from those segregationist days. It’s a requirement that every voter be able to read and write a section of the N.C. Constitution.

The aim of the law, added to the Constitution in 1900, was to block blacks from voting. Most whites were grandfathered in with a clause that allowed anyone whose father or grandfather could vote prior to 1867 to vote as well.

Such literacy requirements are no longer enforceable, of course. Federal civil rights laws in the 1960s and 1970s prohibit them. But even in 1970, N.C. voters shamefully voted against repealing the literacy rule to take it out of the Constitution.

So it’s still on the books. It’s time for it to go.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing legislation to do so. House Bill 311, co-sponsored by Mecklenburg Democrat Kelly Alexander and Republican Charles Jeter, passed the state House unanimously and is now in a Senate committee. If approved, the repeal question will go on the ballot for a vote in May 2014.

A campaign is needed to ensure voters repeal it. It’s sad that legislators are poised in 2013 to push through laws that seem aimed to suppress the votes of minorities, the poor, young people and the disabled. It’s embarrassing to still have in the state’s Constitution a 113-year-old reminder of the state’s blatant strategy to keep a large portion of its citizenry from exercising that fundamental right.

Fox, meet henhouse

Oh, we’re so relieved. For a minute there, we were upset that the Justice Department – with Attorney General Eric Holder’s approval – secretly seized the private emails of Fox News journalist James Rosen, even calling him a possible “co-conspirator” for asking an intelligence analyst for information.

But no worries – President Obama says he’s having the whole thing looked into. By the very same Eric Holder. Oh wait, maybe we’re not so comforted.

Obama said Thursday that “journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.” He said he would have Holder review Justice Department procedures for cases involving leaks to reporters, and that Holder “shares my concern.”

He does? Since when? Holder is ill-equipped to lead such a review, since he authorized the Rosen email seizure and, in a separate case, led a Justice Department that secretly seized records of 20 home, office and cell phone lines of AP reporters and editors in a leak investigation.

A free press is one of the only tools for holding government accountable. This administration seems to be treating that free press like criminals for doing their jobs. A review of that performance by one of the lead aggressors? That’s worth precious little.

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