A federal judge tried Friday to speed up the flow of documents in three lawsuits challenging North Carolina’s voter ID and elections overhaul law. Several advocacy groups, voters and the U.S. government sued in August and September to block provisions of the law that they argue are racially discriminatory and violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act. Those provisions include a photo identification requirement to voter in person, reducing the number of early voting days from 17 to 10 and eliminating same-day voter registration during the early-voting period. U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Joi Peake already had determined in December the combined lawsuits wouldn’t go to trial until mid-2015. However, plaintiffs’ attorneys are now anxious to collect documents and data they argue lawyers for state agencies and Gov. Pat McCrory aren’t giving them. They face a May deadline to seek an injunction blocking enforcement of the provisions for the November elections. An injunction hearing likely will occur in early July. Voter ID isn’t required until 2016, but preparations already have started.
“Things are lingering. We do not have the luxury of time,” Dan Donovan, a lawyer representing the state chapter of the NAACP in the lawsuit, told Peake during the 3½-hour court hearing in Winston-Salem. He added later: “Our big concern is, let’s get going.”
The plaintiffs have requested documents, emails and electronic communications about how the wide-ranging election law was developed and how it’s now being carried out. It was approved by Republicans last summer.
Peake told attorneys on both sides they have until early next week to come up with a method to begin moving more of the documents to defense attorneys, or she could start setting hard deadlines for the state to comply.