After two weeks, attorneys representing the N.C. NAACP and other groups rested their case Friday, having called more than 40 witnesses who testified either in court or via video depositions, that North Carolina’s election law is racially discriminatory. Now, it is the state’s turn to present evidence. Attorneys representing North Carolina and Gov. Pat McCrory called Janet Thornton, an economist, as their first witness. Thomas Farr, one of the attorneys for the state, said they expect to finish presenting evidence by Wednesday. The N.C. NAACP and other groups, including the U.S. Department of Justice, are suing North Carolina and McCrory over House Bill 589, which passed both chambers of the General Assembly in July 2013. McCrory signed the legislation into law in August 2013. The law eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced the days of early voting, got rid of preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds and prohibited out-of-precinct provisional voting, among other provisions.
The case is being closely watched statewide because the law is one of the most comprehensive election law changes since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 to invalidate a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That section required 40 counties in North Carolina and other states to seek federal approval for election law changes.
Over the past two weeks, plaintiffs have called expert witnesses, state Democratic legislators and North Carolina residents to the stand to prove that state Republican legislators passed House Bill 589 with discriminatory intent and that the law imposes a disproportionate burden on blacks, Hispanics, poor people and young people who want to vote. Plaintiffs have argued that state Republican legislators showed discriminatory intent because in April, the House passed a smaller version of House Bill 589 that dealt only with photo ID and waited until the U.S. Supreme Court decision to introduce a dramatically revised House Bill 589. That revised bill, which ran 57 pages, passed through both chambers of the General Assembly in two days.