In the final session of a trial that could yield a crucial decision about a policy that has been disputed for years, a federal judge heard closing arguments on Monday about North Carolina’s voter identification law. The arguments capped a six-day bench trial, before Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court, that included emotional testimony about voting rights and technical analyses of the law’s impact. The outcome will be seen as an important measure of what voting-related laws federal courts might allow states to pursue and enforce. The North Carolina chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. and other plaintiffs argued Monday, as they have for months, that the Republican-controlled General Assembly drafted the voter identification law in 2013 as a surreptitious way to curb the influence of black and Hispanic voters. The N.A.A.C.P. has argued that those voters are less likely to have one of the six accepted forms of identification required and often face more hardship in obtaining them. “They knew that all these provisions, taken individually and together, have racially discriminatory intent,” said Catherine Meza, a lawyer for the United States Justice Department, which joined the N.A.A.C.P. in the litigation.
The state has insisted that the voter identification standard was approved solely to reduce the risk of election fraud, and it has argued that the measure’s critics could merely speculate about its harms. Any difficulty in obtaining identification, which can include a driver’s license or a passport, is reasonable and falls equally across races, state officials said.
“It’s not a burden; it’s a minor inconvenience,” a lawyer for the state, Thomas A. Farr, said on a day when Judge Schroeder frequently interrupted for questions. “If you want to vote, you should be able to navigate that burden.”
The fate of the law, before inevitable appeals, is in the hands of Judge Schroeder, an appointee of President George W. Bush. Judge Schroeder is also considering a challenge to other changes that Republicans have made to elections laws, including the elimination of same-day registration and a significant reduction in early voting days.