Changes to North Carolina’s voting access rules finally go to trial this week, with a judge ultimately determining whether Republican legislators illegally diminished the opportunity for minorities to participate in the political process. The U.S. Justice Department, voting and civil rights groups and individuals sued soon after the General Assembly approved an elections overhaul law in summer 2013. After interim arguments reached the U.S. Supreme Court last fall, the trial begins Monday and expected to last two to three weeks addresses the crux of the allegations. Provisions being argued in a Winston-Salem federal courtroom reduced the number of days of early voting from 17 to 10, eliminated same-day registration during the early-vote period and prohibited the counting of Election Day ballots cast in the wrong precinct.
Attorneys representing those who sued contend the restrictions violate the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution by throwing up large electoral obstacles to minority voters historically subjected to racial bias and should be thrown out.
“We will show that the law is a calculated effort by politicians to manipulate the voting rules by targeting the very measures that African-Americans and Latino voters use at significantly higher rates than white voters,” said Donita Judge, an attorney with the Advancement Project, which is representing the state NAACP in the lawsuits.