After three days of testimony, a hearing in federal court is wrapping up on whether to block certain provisions of North Carolina’s new voting law, such as eliminating same-day voter registration, for November’s election. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder on Wednesday began listening to final arguments from plaintiffs’ attorneys. The U.S. Department of Justice, the state NAACP, the League of Women Voters and other groups have filed lawsuits challenging the law and are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent many of the provisions from going into effect during the Nov. 4 general election. Among the many provisions, the law reduces the number of days of early voting from 17 to 10, eliminates same-day voter registration and prohibits county election officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the correct county but wrong precinct. It also gets rid of pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and would require voters to show a photo ID, beginning in 2016.
Opponents have argued that the new law would hurt blacks, young people and poor people and have compared the law to similar efforts in the past to disenfranchise black voters, such as poll taxes and literacy tests.
They argue that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as well as the 14th, 15th, and 26th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
During the final arguments, Schroeder asked John Russ, one of the attorneys for the Department of Justice, why taking away early voting is a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. He also asked Russ whether the Department of Justice had made this claim in any other case. Russ said many of the provisions reduced or eliminated were passed to make up for the past voting discrimination against blacks. Blacks use those provisions, like early voting, at higher rates than whites, Russ said.