Starting in 2016, students in North Carolina will have to present a photo ID to vote. Among the forms of acceptable identification are driver’s licenses, passports and military IDs. College IDs, however, are not accepted. The new law has troubled many students in the college community, and now seven students are suing. The students claim the photo ID requirement and measures such as the elimination of out-of-precinct voting are discriminatory against young people, joining organizations such as the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department in a legal battle against the state. The case challenges the constitutionality of North Carolina’s Voting Information Verification Act (VIVA), passed by the state Legislature in 2013. The law also eliminates same-day registration for voters and shortens the period for early registration.
Articles about voting issues in North Carolina.
A federal judge will now have to decide whether North Carolina’s new voting law is so onerous on black voters that it needs to be blocked before the upcoming November elections. That’s the central question after a four-day hearing in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem ended Thursday afternoon. National and local voting-rights activists are closely watching the case. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder said in court that he would issue a written decision at a later date, noting it would be “sooner rather than later,” given the urgency of the matter. State attorneys argued Thursday that the law was not discriminatory and that it gave everyone an equal opportunity to vote. Opponents disagree. The hearing featured about three days of testimony from state officials, Democratic legislators, experts and blacks voters who said they would be burdened by voting changes that Republicans legislators passed in 2013. The law, known as the Voting Information Verification Act and referred to in the hearing as House Bill 589, would reduce early voting from 17 days to 10, eliminate same-day voter registration, prohibit county elections officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the correct county but wrong precinct and get rid of pre-registration by 16- and 17-year-olds.
After three days of testimony, a hearing in federal court is wrapping up on whether to block certain provisions of North Carolina’s new voting law, such as eliminating same-day voter registration, for November’s election. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder on Wednesday began listening to final arguments from plaintiffs’ attorneys. The U.S. Department of Justice, the state NAACP, the League of Women Voters and other groups have filed lawsuits challenging the law and are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent many of the provisions from going into effect during the Nov. 4 general election. Among the many provisions, the law reduces the number of days of early voting from 17 to 10, eliminates same-day voter registration and prohibits county election officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the correct county but wrong precinct. It also gets rid of pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and would require voters to show a photo ID, beginning in 2016.
North Carolina has a long and established history of voter discrimination against blacks and that history would continue under a new state voting law, an expert testified this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem. Poll taxes were on the books until the 1920s, said Barry Burden, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And literacy tests, in which blacks were sometimes forced to read the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, remain on the books, even though they aren’t enforced, Burden said. Burden was testifying in a hearing on a preliminary injunction to block provisions of North Carolina’s voting law that was passed in 2013. Those provisions include reducing the number of days for early voting from 17 to 10, eliminating same-day voter registration and prohibiting county elections officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the correct county but wrong precinct.
When Alan Langley, a Republican member of the local elections board here, explains a new proposal to consolidate five voting precincts into two, it sounds procedural and well-meaning: He speaks of convenient parking and wheelchair access at the proposed polling places, and of saving more than $10,000 per election. Those precincts, however, are rich with black voters who generally vote Democratic. And when the Rev. Dante Murphy, the president of the Cleveland County N.A.A.C.P. chapter, discusses the plan, he talks of “disenfranchisement” and “conspiracy.” “We know,” Mr. Murphy said, “that this is part of a bigger trend — a movement to suppress people’s right to vote.”
Sweeping changes to North Carolina’s voting law, considered one of the toughest in the nation, should be put on hold until at least after the November election, the U.S. Justice Department told a federal judge Monday. Lawyers for the Justice Department and an array of civic groups said the Republican-backed measures were designed to suppress turnout among minorities, the elderly and college students — blocs that generally vote Democratic. Supporters of the measure said they ensured fair elections, prevented voter fraud and no group was disenfranchised during recent party primaries. Representing the NACCP, lawyer Penda Hair tried to draw a direct line between the new law and voting rights won during the civil rights era. “We can never forget we are walking on sacred ground when it comes to African-American and Latino voting rights,” Hair said. “The long arm of slavery and Jim Crow still reaches into the present.”
North Carolina’s voter identification law, which has been described as the most sweeping attack on African American electoral rights since the Jim Crow era, is being challenged in a legal hearing that opens on Monday. Civil rights lawyers and activists are gathering in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for the start of the legal challenge that is expected to last all week. They will be seeking to persuade a federal district judge to impose a preliminary injunction against key aspects of HB 589, the voting law enacted by state Republicans last August. Lawyers for the North Carolina branch of the NAACP and the civil rights group the Advancement Project will argue that the main pillars of the law should be temporarily halted ahead of a full trial next year. Otherwise, they say, tens of thousands of largely poor black voters could find themselves turned away at the polls at the midterm elections in November.
For Rev. John Mendez, longtime activist and pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, voting is more than just casting a ballot in a particular election. “I believe that voting is important to the African-American community because it is the only place where powerless people can be powerful,” he said in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of North Carolina as part of a trio of lawsuits challenging the state’s new election law. “It is where individuals who have been excluded and oppressed can find their voice. Voting makes you feel equal to everyone else, which is not the everyday experience for many African-Americans. At its core, voting gives individuals a sense of dignity.” Mendez and others believe that the right to vote, especially for blacks, is under attack in the form of the new election law that Gov. Pat McCrory signed last August.
The legal challenge to North Carolina’s voter ID law goes before a federal judge Monday, as the fight over whether the law suppresses minority votes flares up in the state’s U.S. Senate race. Opponents of the law, including Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, contend that the identification requirement and other new voting laws create an obstacle for blacks, Hispanics and women to reach the ballot box. The support of the same voter blocs are crucial to Mrs. Hagan’s strategy to win in November against Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis. The lawsuit, brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others, seeks an injunction against the law for the 2014 election. A hearing is scheduled Monday before U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder in Winston-Salem. Mrs. Hagan, meanwhile, will be angling to use the court hearing to vilify Mr. Tillis and rally Democratic voters.
North Carolina: Elimination of voter preregistration program creates confusion for DMV and elections officials | Charlotte Observer
The General Assembly’s decision to do away with voter pre-registration in 2013 has created confusion in state driver’s license offices, where 50,000 teenagers a year had been signed up in a program that automatically added their names to voter rolls when they turned 18. Since September, when part of the sweeping elections overhaul bill took effect, state Division of Motor Vehicles officials have had difficulty figuring out at what age newly licensed drivers should be allowed to register to vote. This issue is one of many expected to be raised next week in federal court by lawyers representing the U.S. Justice Department, the NAACP and others challenging the 2013 elections overhaul bill. The parties are scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder on Monday in a Winston-Salem federal courtroom.