Attorneys representing North Carolina and Gov. Pat McCrory rested their case this morning after calling six witnesses in a federal trial over the state’s controversial election law. The last witness for the state was Brian Neesby, business systems analysis for the State Board of Election. Neesby testified about data analysis he conducted, including an analysis that showed higher mail verification failure rates for same-day voter registration than the traditional registration that occurs 25 days before an election. Several groups, including the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice, are suing the state and McCrory over House Bill 589, which became law in 2013. House Bill 589 eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced the days of early voting from 17 to 10, got rid of out-of-precinct provisional voting and abolished preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds.
Plaintiffs allege that state Republican legislators had racially discriminatory intent in passing the law and that the legislation disproportionately makes it harder for blacks, Hispanics, poor people and young people to cast ballots.
Defendants have argued that the law is racially neutral and applies to everyone equally. They have also argued that the high turnout rate among blacks in the 2014 election undercuts any allegations that blacks are being disproportionately affected by the law.
The case is being closely watched nationally and across the state because it is one of the first election law challenges since the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 5 required 40 counties in North Carolina and several other states, mostly in the South, to seek federal approval for election changes. The requirement covered communities and states that had a history of racial discrimination in voting laws.