A federal judge on Monday upheld sweeping Republican-backed changes to election rules, including a voter identification provision, that civil rights groups say unfairly targeted African-Americans and other minorities. The ruling could have serious political repercussions in a state that is closely contested in presidential elections. The opinion, by Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, upheld the repeal of a provision that allowed people to register and vote on the same day. It also upheld a seven-day reduction in the early-voting period; the end of preregistration, which allowed some people to sign up before their 18th birthdays; and the repeal of a provision that allowed for the counting of ballots cast outside voters’ home precinct. It also left intact North Carolina’s voter identification requirement, which legislators softened last year to permit residents to cast ballots, even if they lack the required documentation, if they submit affidavits. The ruling could have significant repercussions in North Carolina, a state that Barack Obama barely won in 2008, and that the Republican Mitt Romney barely won four years later.
Articles about voting issues in North Carolina.
The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a quick review of the recent ruling on North Carolina’s election law overhaul. In an order filed on Thursday, Clerk Patricia S. Connor stated that attorneys should have all their briefs submitted to the appellate court by June 14. Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine who has been following the case, said it was possible that under such a schedule a hearing could be held in July and a ruling issued before the November general elections. But most expect any ruling to be challenged up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and what would happen there is unclear.
Civil rights groups and churches opposed to sweeping changes to North Carolina’s election rules said on Tuesday they would ask an appeals court for a reversal after a federal judge upheld provisions they argue will suppress minority votes at the polls in November. The ruling late on Monday was highly anticipated in a presidential election year in a state that had close results for the White House in 2008 and 2012, and it received praise from the voting law’s Republican backers. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder in Winston-Salem said the state could require voters to show approved photo identification at the polls, one of a number of provisions in the law that challengers have said targets groups of people who typically support Democratic candidates.
North Carolina: How North Carolina became the epicenter of the voting rights battle | The Washington Post
Civil rights groups appealed a federal judge’s ruling in North Carolina upholding what they call a “monster voter suppression law,” while election experts said Tuesday that the closely watched case will have legal ramifications for voting across the country this presidential election year. North Carolina, a battleground state, is considered an epicenter for the nationwide battle over voting rights because its controversial 2013 election law is one of the strictest in the nation. “If North Carolina can get away with this kind of rollback, I suspect we will see other rollbacks in other states,” said Richard L. Hasen, an election-law expert at the University of California at Irvine and the author of “The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown.” After two trials, the voting law was upheld late Monday by federal judge Thomas D. Schroeder of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. His decision was praised by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who said in a statement that “this ruling further affirms that requiring a photo ID in order to vote is not only common-sense, it’s constitutional.”
While still poring over a federal judge’s 485-page ruling upholding North Carolina’s recent election law overhaul on Tuesday, attorneys for the voters and civil rights organizations challenging the changes quickly filed notice of plans to appeal. Judge Thomas Schroeder’s opinion – one of the first to come down since the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act – is being scrutinized by many as a test of what obligations states have to make sure their citizens have access to the ballot box. Schroeder’s ruling, which was released to the public Monday evening, upheld sweeping voting changes – requiring North Carolina voters to have one of six forms of photo identification, curbing the number of days for early voting, prohibiting voters from registering and casting a ballot the same day, and banning out-of-precinct voting. North Carolina Republicans, who shepherded the changes through the 2013 legislative session, describe the cutbacks, new prohibitions and ID provision as common sense measures designed to prevent voter fraud. There are few documented cases of voter fraud. Challengers of the law described the measures as designed and adopted to disenfranchise African-American, Latino and college-age voters – constituencies more likely to vote Democratic than Republican.
North Carolina: Federal judge who backed limits on early ballots upholds voter ID requirement | The Charlotte Observer
A federal judge has upheld North Carolina’s voter ID law in a ruling posted Monday evening. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder issued a 485-page ruling dismissing all claims in the challenge to the state’s sweeping 2013 election law overhaul. Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, also upheld portions of the 2013 law that cut the number of days people could vote early, eliminated same-day registration and voting and prohibits people from casting a ballot outside their precinct. The decision comes nearly three months after a trial on the ID portion of the law. Schroeder noted that North Carolina had “become progressive nationally” by permitting absentee voting, having early voting for 17 days before the Election Day, a lengthy registration period, out of precinct voting on Election Day and a pre-registration program for 16-year-olds. “In 2013, North Carolina retrenched,” Schroeder said in his opinion. Ultimately, though, Schroeder said the state had provided “legitimate state interests” in making the changes and the challengers failed to demonstrate that the law was unconstitutional.
North Carolina’s growing populations mean gerrymandered districts drawn for partisan advantage could backfire on their sponsors, a pair of University of North Carolina professors said Tuesday. Rebecca Tippett, director of Carolina Demography at the Carolina Population Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Mark Nance, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, spoke at a news conference sponsored by Rep. Duane Hall, D-Wake, and the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. The coalition has been pushing lawmakers to create an independent commission to draw the geographic districts in which members of the U.S. House, the state House and the state Senators run. North Carolina has faced frequent lawsuits over its voting districts, including one in which the federal courts ruled this spring that two of the state’s 13 congressional districts were so gerrymandered as to be unconstitutional.
A federal trial scrutinizing nearly 30 North Carolina legislative districts concluded Friday after attorneys presented conflicting arguments over whether increasing the number of majority-black districts reinforces outdated race-based political divisions or is a sensible legal strategy. The three-judge panel gave no timeframe on when it would rule at the close of the weeklong trial spurred by a voters’ lawsuit, but any decision is at least several weeks away and could be appealed. The timing of the ruling could determine whether Republican lawmakers have to scramble to redraw boundaries in time for the November general elections. The state’s lawyers, who are defending the current boundaries as legal, have said that if any adjustments are ordered, they should be delayed until the 2018 elections. Some of North Carolina’s congressional boundaries were struck down as illegal racial gerrymanders by a different federal judicial panel in February, based in part on arguments similar to what the plaintiffs used in this week’s case. The legislature, forced to redraw the congressional districts right away, delayed the primary for the seats until June 7. Legislative primaries under the current maps were held last month.
Awkwardly-shaped state legislative districts drawn by North Carolina Republicans in 2011 went back on trial Monday, just two months after federal judges who heard similar arguments threw out some congressional boundaries as illegal racial gerrymanders. Voters in nine House districts and 19 Senate districts sued last year. The General Assembly maps have helped the GOP expand and retain its control of the legislature in in the 2012 and 2014 elections. State judges have previously upheld challenged legislative boundary lines in separate lawsuits. A three-judge panel February struck down the majority-black 1st and 12th Congressional Districts, forcing lawmakers to draw new lines and delay the congressional primaries until June. That court decision has raised expectations that the challenged legislative districts could also be struck down, forcing lawmakers to redraw them as well.
North Carolina: Trial on legislative districts begins; expected to last a week | The Charlotte Observer
Three federal judges shared the bench in Greensboro on Monday as a trial began over the legality of North Carolina’s legislative districts. A group of 27 voters filed a lawsuit in May 2015, arguing that maps drawn in 2011 for nine state House districts (4, 5, 14, 20, 21, 28, 32, 38, 40) and 19 state Senate districts (5, 7, 12, 21, 24, 29, 31, 32, 33, 38, 42, 48, 57, 99, 102, 07) were designed to weaken the influence of black voters, who in North Carolina predominantly vote for Democrats. Republicans led the 2011 redistricting, an exercise that happens every 10 years after the Census. The panel of judges who will decide whether the maps can be used in the 2016 elections are James A. Wynn Jr., an Obama appointee to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals; Thomas D. Schroeder, a district judge appointed by George W. Bush; and Catherine Eagles, a district judge appointed by Obama.