As the fall campaigns wind down, a battle is just beginning to brew over the state’s voting rules. A pair of suits filed locally in the wake of the General Assembly’s passage of the Voter Information Verification Act are now making their way through federal court. One lawsuit filed by a group of individual and political advocacy groups in August has a hearing scheduled for Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court. The other suit was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in September. Defense attorneys have until Dec. 2 to file an official response to the latter suit. No hearings have been scheduled. The law, which Gov. Pat McCrory signed in August, will require voters to produce a photo ID to vote in 2016. Beginning next year, it will also shorten early voting from 17 days to 10 days and eliminate same-day registration during early voting. It also does away with counting provisional ballots cast by those who vote in the wrong precinct. A provision of the law that prohibits 16- and 17-year-olds from pre-registering to vote began this year.
Opponents describe VIVA as an attempt to disenfranchise minorities, who tend to heavily favor Democrats. They note that the law came on the heels of a Supreme Court decision over the summer that eliminated a requirement in the Voting Rights Act that certain states, including North Carolina, get clearance from the U.S. Justice Department before changing their voting laws.
“I think it’s turning back the clock,” said former Greensboro City Councilwoman Goldie Wells. “The early voting has been a help to African Americans, and being able to register on site. This new law is just going to cause us to lose voters.”