Even before it passed, opponents had taken to calling it the Monster Law. But the 56-page bill that ultimately cleared the GOP-controlled General Assembly here last summer and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in August was, if possible, worse than what they had imagined. Freed from having to clear election law changes with the Justice Department after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, North Carolina lawmakers enacted what is considered by many the toughest voting restrictions in the United States. “That was the opening for the Senate to then say, ‘OK, we can do anything. We can make this in our view the best’ — or in Common Cause’s view … the worst — ‘proposal in the land,’” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause, a nonpartisan citizens’ advocacy group. “We have the worst overall elections laws in the country and the most onerous voter ID in the land.”
In addition to requiring voters to have a North Carolina government-issued ID by 2016, the law eliminates same-day voter registration, cuts back the early voting period by seven days, invalidates ballots cast in the wrong precinct and requires voters to register at least 28 days before going to the polls in a primary or a general election.
Although several legal challenges to the law are wending their way through the court system — including a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department, voting rights activists in North Carolina are bracing to accept the law as the new reality in the state. Their efforts are now as focused on mitigating its effects as they are on finding a reprieve.
“We don’t have any illusions, particularly for the primary, that it’s going to be stopped or it will be reversed, and we’re not counting on that happening in November,” Phillips said.