Members of a federal appeals court expressed skepticism Tuesday that North Carolina’s 2013 major rewrite to voting laws, requiring photo identification to cast in-person ballots, doesn’t discriminate against minorities. The three-judge panel met Tuesday to hear arguments over whether to overturn an April trial court ruling upholding the law. Judge Henry F. Floyd questioned the timing of the changes — done after Republicans took control of state government for the first time in a century and after the U.S. Supreme Court undid key provisions of the Voting Rights Act — and whether they weren’t done to suppress minority votes for political gain. “It looks pretty bad to me,” Floyd said. But the law’s authors said they were aiming to prevent voter fraud and increase public confidence in elections. “It was not a nefarious thing,” said Thomas A. Farr, an attorney representing the state.
Articles about voting issues in North Carolina.
A federal appeals court asked tough questions Tuesday about North Carolina’s Republican-backed law that imposed tighter rules for voting, including a photo identification requirement at the polls. The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering legal challenges from the Justice Department, civil rights groups and citizens who allege the North Carolina law illegally discriminated against minority voters. Allison Riggs, a lawyer for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, argued that North Carolina engaged in an unprecedented rollback of voting rights, which intentionally targeted minorities who tend to vote for Democrats. State lawmakers “knew the disparate impact of every one of these provisions,” she said.
Far-reaching voting changes in North Carolina approved by Republicans three years ago and upheld by a federal judge now head to an appeals court that previously sided with those challenging the law on racial grounds. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments Tuesday, just two months after a lower court ruled photo identification requirements to vote in person, early-voting restrictions and other changes violated neither the federal Voting Rights Act nor the Constitution. The appeals court’s decision to accelerate review of the case reinforces the stakes involved with the outcome in an election year, particularly in North Carolina. The presidential battleground state also has big races for governor and U.S. Senate on the fall ballot. “The legislative actions at issue must be analyzed in the context of the high levels of racially polarized voting in North Carolina, where many elections are sensitive to even slight shifts in voting,” lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department wrote in a brief heading into the arguments before three judges in Richmond, Virginia.
North Carolina: How North Carolina’s new district map caused a chaotic congressional primary | The Guardian
North Carolina congresswoman Alma Adams was sitting in a campaign meeting at her headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina, in early February, planning for what should have been an easy primary win. No Democratic challengers had declared their candidacy in time for the 15 March election. Victory was all but guaranteed. Before the meeting ended, one of her staffers interrupted with some unexpected news. A panel of three federal judges had ruled that the 12th district’s congressional map – which resembled a serpent slithering across central North Carolina’s cities – was unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering. The district would need to be redrawn, the judges said. It was a win for racial justice, legal observers said. But the map redrawing that followed – the latest episode in a decades-old legal saga over the district lines – wasn’t a win for voter enfranchisement this election, in this deep blue district where the primary is likely to decide the race. When state lawmakers two weeks later redrew most of the state’s districts, the 70-year-old black Greensboro lawmaker discovered her home was nearly two hours away from the new Charlotte-centric district.
North Carolina: Legislators say redistricting emails, other info protected from public scrutiny | Greensboro News & Record
State legislators say they won’t turn over more information about the new voting districts they drew last year for the Greensboro City Council. The legislators are fighting subpoenas from a group of local residents suing to stop the redistricting because of racial gerrymandering. The new districts are scheduled to take effect for the 2017 election. On Monday, lawyers for the N.C. Attorney General’s Office said the information is protected from public view because of “legislative privilege.” In their filing in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, they said the legislators have given the residents’ attorneys all the information that’s not covered by legislative privilege. The Greensboro residents, who are being represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, asked a judge last month to force the legislators to turn over the information.
A panel of federal judges Thursday rejected the most recent challenge of North Carolina’s newly drawn congressional districts. In the unanimous decision, the three district judges left open the possibility for a different lawsuit to weigh the question of blatant partisan gerrymandering. The effect is that maps drawn by the legislature’s Republican leadership in February remain valid as voters cast early ballots in the primary election to decide which congressional candidates are on the ballot in November. The ruling came almost four months after the General Assembly redrew congressional lines in a response to a court order declaring two of North Carolina’s districts unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. In March, attorneys for David Harris of Durham and Christine Bowser of Mecklenburg County asked the three-judge panel to reject the new maps as “a blatant, unapologetic partisan gerrymander” that provided no legal remedy to the 2011 maps that were struck down on Feb. 5. The challengers also argued that the new maps intentionally limited minority representation.
In light of finding Durham County elections workers had counted dozens more votes than had actually been cast, the State Board of Elections has decided to scratch 892 provisional ballots and mail out new ballots to those voters more than two months later. In a meeting to finalize the results of the March 15 primary, the board voted unanimously to approve only 147 provisional ballots that could be checked for eligibility and moved to send out new ballots to voters whose ballots could not be verified. The decision came out of a state investigation into discrepancies in the Durham County election primaries that found the state only had physical copies for 980 provisional ballots, despite having approved or partially approved 1,039 provisional ballots to count toward final election totals.
There will be one race on every ballot in North Carolina’s previously unscheduled June 7 primary because the state Supreme Court couldn’t agree whether a law that led a colleague to seek re-election through a new method complied with the state constitution. Justices deadlocked 3-3 this month on a lower court ruling that struck down the law giving Associate Justice Robert Edmunds of Greensboro the option to run alone for a new term in November and try to keep his job based on an up-or-down vote of support. That kept February’s decision of three trial judges intact, thus returning the election to a traditional head-to-head race. Edmunds and three challengers — Sabra Jean Faires of Cary, Michael Morgan of Raleigh and Daniel Robertson of Advance — are candidates on the primary ballot that also will include delayed congressional primaries in most parts of the state. The top two vote-getters advance to the general election.
Another pending legal challenge to North Carolina’s voter identification requirement is still swimming around in state court, where a judge Friday heard arguments on whether a trial should be scheduled soon or more delays are the proper course. Three consolidated federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the photo ID mandate and other voting changes made by the General Assembly already have been tried, with all the provisions in the 2013 case upheld last month as legal and constitutional. That case is on the fast-track to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with scheduled arguments for next month. The state lawsuit, initially filed in August 2013 by voters and voting-rights groups, focuses solely on the ID requirement as another qualification to vote beyond what the North Carolina Constitution demands and is unlawful. Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan put the proceedings on hold last fall until after photo ID was required for the first time during the March 15 primary.
The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals set June 21 to hear arguments in the North Carolina voting rights case. The appeal was filed by the NAACP and other organizations representing voters who challenged the extensive elections law overhaul in 2013. The new law established a voter ID requirement, curbed the number of days voters could cast ballots early, eliminated out-of-precinct voting and stopped letting people register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day.