A federal judge on Friday refused a request from state lawmakers to dismiss a challenge to the N.C. voter ID law. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder set the issue for a trial, tentatively in January. Attorneys for state lawmakers argued that a 2015 change to the ID provision of an election law overhaul made the 2013 legal challenge moot. Though the law initially restricted voting to people who had one of six specified photo identification cards, the General Assembly added a provision on the eve of the federal trial this summer that made it possible to cast a provisional ballot without an ID. The law is set to go into effect next year. Advocates of the ID law say it is necessary to prevent voter fraud. But few cases have been prosecuted.
The NAACP and others have contended that requiring IDs to vote has a disproportionate negative impact on minority voters, who don’t always have access to birth certificates and other documents needed for the identification cards. Though the 2015 amendment now makes it possible to vote without one of the specified IDs, some of the challengers have asked for more time to study the practical effect. They also have questioned whether elections officials have had adequate time to educate the public about the most recent version of voting laws.
Irv Joyner, a Durham attorney representing the challengers, said he was pleased that Schroeder found the claims sufficient to proceed to trial.
“We remain concerned about the abbreviated timetable… a timetable that exists solely because of the trickery of the North Carolina General Assembly who waited until the dawn of trial to slightly amend its discriminatory photo ID requirement,” Joyner said in a statement. “Even with the changes, and after nearly two years of telling voters they would need the narrowly prescribed photo ID to vote, North Carolina officials have yet to articulate their strategy for educating the public, poll workers and other state officials on what is needed to vote. As a result, the people of North Carolina are left in legislative-limbo by not knowing the rules for voting as well as the options available ahead of a March 2016 primary and the general election.”