A federal trial regarding North Carolina’s election law — one that civil-rights activists call the most sweeping and restrictive in the country — ended late Friday afternoon, a week before the 50th anniversary of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. But U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder’s decision won’t come down anytime soon. It could be at least a month before he renders a ruling on whether House Bill 589 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. For three weeks in a Winston-Salem federal courtroom, North Carolina residents and national experts testified about the impact of House Bill 589, which became law in 2013. The law eliminated same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct provisional voting, reduced the days of early voting from 17 to 10 and got rid of preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds. … North Carolina’s law also includes voter ID, which was not a part of the federal trial. But many also point out that North Carolina’s is the most sweeping and most comprehensive election law change in years.
The case comes on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 25, 2013. The state’s new election law was approved a month after the court invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that required 40 counties in North Carolina and a number of other states to get federal approval of any election law changes.
Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California at Irvine School of Law, said the case is significant because its the first under Section 2 that deals with election law changes. Section 2 is usually tied to redistricting cases, he said. “It’s unclear, for example, whether it’s relevant that the state takes away a convenience or benefit to voters that may have once been offered with the state having no good reason to do so,” Hasen said.