ByÂ Ben Conery-The Washington Times
A federal judge in Washington has dismissed on technical grounds a legal challenge to anÂ Obama administration decision that a small North Carolina city must keep political parties in local elections because equal rights for black voters cannot be achieved without theDemocratic Party.
U.S. District Court JudgeÂ John D. Bates said in an order dated Monday that the several residents of Kinston, N.C., who brought the case – including two potential Republican candidates forÂ City Council– lacked what is known as the legal “standing” to do so.
The city itself could have challenged the ruling, but the Democrat-dominatedÂ City Council voted last year not to do so.
Kinston voters decided overwhelmingly in a 2008 referendum to eliminate partisan elections, but theÂ Justice Department stopped the change because the city is among 12,000 almost exclusively Southern voting districts that require department approval before making any changes to voting procedures.
The lawsuit argued that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which gives theÂ federal government this power, is unconstitutional.
TheÂ department‘s decision in Kinston, which affects races forÂ City Council and mayor, went so far as to say partisan elections are needed so black voters can elect their “candidates of choice” – identified by theÂ department as those who are Democrats and almost exclusively black.
“Removing the partisan cue in municipal elections will, in all likelihood, eliminate the single factor that allows black candidates to be elected to office,” theÂ Justice Department wrote in a letter to the city explaining its ruling.
The letter further stated that white voters in Kinston will vote for blacks only if they are Democrats, and the city cannot get rid of party affiliations for local elections because that would violate black voters’ right to elect the candidates they want.
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