Following a federal judge’s decision last week to deny a request by the U.S. Department of Justice and civil rights groups to block North Carolina’s restrictive new voting law from being enforced during this November’s election, voting rights activists are turning their attention from the ongoing legal battle in the courtroom to organizing voters to turn out despite the new rules. “We will not falter in our efforts to mobilize until this extreme law is completely repealed,” said Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP, one of the civil rights groups that sought the injunction. “Our movement against this voter suppression law is built on the legacy of those who have testified before us, with their feet and blood, to fight for equal rights in North Carolina and the nation.” On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder declined to issue a preliminary injunction that would have prevented restrictive provisions in the voting law passed last year by the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R) from taking effect during this year’s general election. Those provisions include a shorter early voting period and an end to same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and straight-party voting.
The law also includes a provision requiring voters to show photo ID beginning in 2016. The legislature passed the law shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act that required federal preclearance for changes to election laws in states with a history of voter discrimination, most of them in the South.
But in good news for the plaintiffs, Schroeder also rejected the state of North Carolina’s request to dismiss the lawsuit altogether. The trial over the law’s constitutionality is expected to begin next summer.
The plaintiffs suing to overturn the law have offered evidence that the law disproportionately affects African-American voters. In 2012, for example, 70 percent of African Americans who cast ballots in North Carolina used early voting. African Americans are also more likely than other groups to use same-day registration. However, Schroeder ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence that the law would cause “irreparable harm” if it remained in effect for the November mid-terms.