Attorneys in a trio of lawsuits challenging North Carolina’s voter identification law say that as of the middle of last week, the State Board of Elections had not turned over a single electronic document, despite a plan agreed to by both sides earlier this month to produce that material. The U.S. Department of Justice, along with a group of plaintiffs that includes the North Carolina NAACP and the League of Women Voters, filed suit last year that claims that the Voter Information Verification Act will disproportionately hurt black voters. Supporters say it will help prevent voter fraud. A judge on Friday signed an order setting deadlines for the release of relevant, non-protected electronic documents by the state elections board. According to that order, the agency indicated it was prepared to release a set of documents Friday. Plaintiffs in the suit also scored a victory Thursday when a federal judge ruled that state lawmakers could not disregard subpoenas to turn over material.
The act, signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory in August, requires voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls beginning in 2016. It also shortens the early voting period from 17 days to 10 and eliminates the counting of provisional ballots cast by those who voted in the wrong district.
During a hearing Feb. 21 in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem, plaintiffs’ attorneys said they had not received any emails or other electronic documents from the state elections board. An attorney for the state board argued that plaintiffs had made “hundreds of discovery requests” and that the task of collecting those files is enormous. Plaintiffs’ attorneys said that is “no excuse for slowing down.”
Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake ordered lawyers to work out a blueprint for producing the electronic documents.