State Republican leaders deviated from customary practices to rush through the most significant election law changes in a generation, a Democratic state senator testified Tuesday. State Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, took the stand Tuesday afternoon in a trial in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem. Several groups, including the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice, are suing North Carolina and Gov. Pat McCrory over a 2013 election law that curtailed or eliminated voting practices that they say result in undue burdens on black and Hispanic voters, poor voters and young voters. Stein said that state Republican leaders had worked with Democratic legislators in April to craft a much shorter version of House Bill 589 that dealt strictly with requiring registered voters to have a photo ID when they cast their ballots. The legislation passed the House and then was sent to the Senate Rules committee, where it sat for several months, Stein said.
On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling invalidating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required 40 North Carolina counties and several other states to seek federal approval for election changes. Just after 9 p.m. July 22, Stein said, he received an email outlining a drastically revised House Bill 589. The new bill was 57 pages; the initial legislation had been only 16 pages, he said.
Stein, a member of the Senate Rules committee, said he had little time to do any research before the committee met. He presented statistical analysis to his colleagues based on data from the N.C. State Board of Elections that had been compiled by an advocacy group, he said.