A North Carolina state judge has declined for now to strike down or uphold photo identification requirements to vote in person starting in 2016 — keeping the path clear for a summer trial in a lawsuit. In a ruling provided Friday to case attorneys, Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan denied a motion by voters and advocacy groups who sued and believe the voter ID mandate is unconstitutional because legislators created another qualification to cast a ballot. But Morgan also refused to accept all the arguments of attorneys representing the state and State Board of Elections to throw out the lawsuit. With the refusals for “judgment on the pleadings” — meaning arguments with essentially no additional evidence — Morgan is indicating factual issues between the court opponents must be resolved. A trial already had been set for July 13.
Articles about voting issues in North Carolina.
A Wake County judge has refused to dismiss a challenge to North Carolina’s voter ID law, saying in a ruling issued Friday that most of the claims in the lawsuit are strong enough to take to trial. Judge Mike Morgan dismissed two of six claims made by the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and five female voters who contend that requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls violates the North Carolina State Constitution. Attorneys for the legislators behind the 2013 elections-law overhaul argued three weeks ago to Morgan that the case should be dismissed outright and that no one would be prohibited from voting if they did not have one of the acceptable forms of ID. The attorneys for the lawmakers contended that because an ID will not be necessary to cast a mail-in absentee ballot, that the challengers’ arguments have no merits.
Support for reforming the way the state’s political maps are drawn is getting bi-partisan support in the State House. A bill to make those changes has 63 co-sponsors, but that far from guarantees it will be passed. The bill is the third attempt by the House since 2011 to put the responsibility for drawing congressional maps in the hands of a non-partisan panel. That power now lies with the lawmakers themselves, which many observers see as a conflict of interest. Jane Pinsky is director of the non-partisan group End Gerrymandering Now. She says she’s encouraged that so many have signed on to the House Bill, but says it still faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
North Carolina: House members file redistricting bill to ban ‘irregularly shaped’ boundaries | News Observer
A bipartisan group of N.C. House members filed the second of two proposals Monday to create a nonpartisan redistricting process. House Bill 92 would be modeled on an Iowa plan that lets lawmakers vote on redistricting proposals drafted by legislative staffers. It would take effect for the next round of redistricting, after the 2020 U.S. Census. The group Common Cause North Carolina, which advocates for election reforms, is pushing for the bill. “For decades, North Carolina’s flawed redistricting system has resulted in gerrymandered districts that deprive voters of having a real voice in their elections,” executive director Bob Phillips said in a statement Tuesday. “We applaud these Republican and Democratic lawmakers for working together to pass reform that would protect the fundamental right of voters to choose their representatives.”
North Carolina: Details on stopping non-US citizens from North Carolina voting released | Greensboro News-Record
A concerted effort by North Carolina officials to prevent non-U.S. citizens from voting in last fall’s elections led to 11 people having their ballots rejected. The State Board of Elections released results of an audit of voter rolls in October that flagged 1,454 registered voters in 81 of the state’s 100 counties as potential non-citizens. Information on the rolls was matched up against data from the state Division of Motor Vehicles and the federal Department of Homeland Security. It’s illegal for a non-citizen to vote or register in North Carolina. More than 2.9 million registered voters voted last fall, or 44 percent of the 6.6 million registered.
North Carolina: Voting machine replacement to cost Guilford County more than $6.5 million | News & Record
Replacing the county’s voting machines to comply with a new state mandate could cost more than $6.5 million. “It’s going to be pricey,” Guilford County Elections Director Charlie Collicutt told the Board of Commissioners at its annual retreat Friday in Colfax. “There is no outside funding from the state, or any other body.” Guilford County residents currently cast their ballots via touch-screen voting machines, which tabulate votes electronically but spit out paper rolls that officials can use to audit election results. Under the mandate, passed by the N.C. General Assembly in 2013, touch-screen machines are still allowed. But votes have to be counted using paper ballots. “What’s tabulated has to be on paper,” Collicutt says. “So our machines will be illegal.”
A plan for redistricting in North Carolina is once again being put forward by state lawmakers. A bipartisan group of legislators, from the House and Senate, held a press conference at noon on Tuesday. The purpose was to put forward a proposal to change how voting maps are drawn in the Tar Heel state. The debate over redistricting in North Carolina has raged on for more than a century. For years Democrats controlled the state legislature, and they drew maps that were favorable to the election of more Democrats. And that was deemed legal by the court system. During that time, Republicans, and some Democrats, repeatedly called for lawmakers to conceive of a more fair system for how the maps are drawn. Now that Republicans are in control of the state House and Senate, the roles have reversed.
Lawmakers from both parties Tuesday renewed their effort to take politics out of one of their most politically charged jobs – redistricting. And advocates say they’re optimistic despite the continued opposition of leaders in the state Senate, where earlier efforts have died. “Realistically it’s an uphill battle,” said Jane Pinsky, director of the Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. “We hope that the legislators will … not remain confident that just because they’re in charge now or just because they were in charge 10 years ago that they’re going to be in charge in 2020.” Legislative and congressional districts currently are drawn every 10 years by legislators. As a result, critics say those districts typically favor the party in power, result in less competition and therefore fewer moderates who have to answer to a broader constituency. Last year nearly half of the state’s 170 legislative seats were uncontested.
Republicans in 2011 carved North Carolina into new districts from which public officials are elected, creating 170 areas for state lawmakers and 13 for members of Congress in a required effort to maintain balanced populations. Democrats and left-leaning groups complained that the new maps intentionally deflated their candidates’ chances in the state and federal elections, but courts have upheld the redistricting effort — which is necessary after every Census — as fair, legal and based on sound methodologies. But there’s a reinvigorated movement among officials and policy groups with ties to both political parties who say they’re sick of gerrymandering, or at least of the public skepticism that comes when politicians handle how the voting areas are drawn.
A Wake County judge plans to take two to three weeks to decide whether a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s voter ID law should be dismissed or proceed to trial this summer. Mike Morgan, a Wake County Superior Court judge, briefed attorneys Friday after listening to several hours of arguments for and against the dismissal request. The case is rooted in an overhaul of North Carolina election law that was adopted by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2013. Under the sweeping changes, which are also being challenged in federal court, voters going to the polls in 2016 will have to show one of seven forms of photo identification to cast a ballot. The League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and five female voters argue that lawmakers overstepped the bounds of the state Constitution when they added the ID requirement. Attorneys for the state lawmakers countered that registered voters without one of the seven acceptable IDs are not shut out completely from voting.