Gov. Pat McCrory has every right to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision regarding the legislature’s discriminatory election law, as he did Monday, But he should drop his unwise request. The Fourth Circuit has already spoken loudly and clearly on this. But McCrory wants provisions of the legislature’s rejected law to be reinstated for the coming November election as lawyers for him, legislative leaders and other state officials craft an appeal. The key provisions they want reinstated are requiring the legislature’s chosen forms of ID to vote and reducing early voting to 10 days rather than 17.
We’ve long wondered what the legislature’s wrong-headed laws are costing North Carolina, both in reputation and in taxpayer dollars to defend them in court. It may be impossible to put a precise dollar figure on the state’s reputation, but we now know the legal cost: More than $8 million. The Associated Press reported last week that the Republican-led General Assembly has budgeted $4 million a year for the next two years to pay outside lawyers to defend controversial N.C. laws.
The voter ID provision of North Carolina’s controversial Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) will be the subject of a hearing in federal court next week. Lawyers for both sides will return to court on October 23 to update U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder on negotiations meant to settle legal challenges to VIVA’s voter ID provision out of court, the Winston-Salem Journal reports. The photo ID requirement is one of the most controversial provisions of VIVA, a comprehensive overhaul of North Carolina voting law signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory on August 12, 2013. In its original form, the ID provision required voters to present one of eight state-approved photo IDs before casting a ballot, starting in 2016. Critics of the law have argued the photo ID requirement unfairly burdens poor, elderly, minority and student voters who are more likely to lack one of the eight approved IDs.
North Carolina: Author says North Carolina leads in national trend to roll back voting rights | Winston-Salem Journal
North Carolina is emerging as ground-zero for the modern-day voting rights movement, an author of a book about the history of voting rights said in an interview Friday. “North Carolina is a case study in the voting rights fight,” said Ari Berman, author of “Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America” and a writer for The Nation, a left-leaning magazine. Berman spoke Friday during the 72nd annual convention of the N.C. NAACP, which has the theme, “Pursuing Liberty in the Face of Injustice.” The convention started Thursday and ends Sunday. The Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, said he expects 800 to 1,000 people to attend.
North Carolina: State wants federal judge to rule on Voter ID before March primaries | Winston-Salem Journal
State attorneys want a federal judge to dismiss the legal challenge to North Carolina’s voter-identification law before the March 2016 presidential primary, according to court documents filed Wednesday. And though the plaintiffs, including the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, said they hoped to settle the matter before a trial, state attorneys said there’s no chance of that. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23 before U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder. The state NAACP, the U.S. Justice Department and others sued the state and Gov. Pat McCrory over 2013’s Voter Information Verification Act. The law’s most well-known provision is the photo ID requirement, but the law also reduced the number of early-voting days from 17 to 10, eliminated same-day voter registration and got rid of out-of-precinct provisional voting.
North Carolina may or may not be a microcosm of the national Republican Party, but one thing is for sure, the disagreements between the two chambers in the North Carolina General Assembly are not confined to just the legislature. Now, Governor Pat McCrory and the Republican Party in the Tar Heel state are involved, and the presidential primary is at the heart of at least one of the feuds (for lack of a better term).The controversial presidential primary legislation that narrowly passed the House after a less contentious trip through the Senate last week has drawn the ire of both the governor and the North Carolina Republican Party. Neither is seemingly pleased with the rider added to HB 373 during conference committee stage that has opened the door to legislative caucuses creating campaign committees to raise money (thus circumventing the state parties). That raises the potential for a veto though Governor McCrory can allow the bill to become law without his signature as well. A veto would mean that North Carolina would not shift into a March 15 primary date and would end up non-compliant with Republican National Committee delegate selection rules (tethered to the South Carolina Republican primary).
A lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s voter identification requirement should be allowed to continue even after the legislature added exceptions this summer easing the mandate that goes into effect next year, lawyers fighting the law told a state judge Monday. But a state attorney said the changes made to the 2013 law have addressed the accusations made in the litigation, giving registered voters who lack a qualifying photo ID a way to cast ballots in person anyway. “There is no question that the General Assembly in what they enacted answered the questions of unconstitutionality that the plaintiffs have raised,” Special Deputy Attorney General Alec Peters told Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan in a Raleigh courtroom. Peters said the lawsuit is moot and should be dismissed.
North Carolina: State attorneys rest their case in federal voting rights trial | Winston-Salem Journal
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.
North Carolina: State elections director discusses prevention of voter fraud | Winston-Salem Journal
Kim Strach, the executive director of the State Board of Elections, took the stand Tuesday for a second time in a closely watched federal trial over North Carolina’s controversial election law. But this time she was on much friendlier ground. Unlike last week, she was called as a witness by attorneys representing the state and Gov. Pat McCrory. Several groups, including the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice, are suing the state and McCrory over House Bill 589, legislation passed in 2013 that eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced the days of early voting from 17 to 10, prohibited out-of-precinct provisional voting and eliminated preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, among other provisions.
North Carolina: Expert: New voting law wouldn’t have affected black turnout in 2014 | Greensboro News & Record
An elections analyst testified Monday that North Carolina’s new voting law had no discernible impact on black voter turnout in the 2014 election. But attorneys for the N.C. NAACP and other groups suing the state and Gov. Pat McCrory objected to testimony from Sean Trende, the senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics, saying he is not qualified to be an expert. House Bill 589, which became law in 2013, is at the center of a federal trial in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem, which is in its third week. House Bill 589 eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced the number of days for early voting from 17 to 10 and prohibited out-of-precinct provisional voting. The law also eliminated preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds, among other provisions. Plaintiffs, including the U.S. Department of Justice, allege that the law imposes disproportionate burdens on blacks and Hispanics, poor people and young people, and that state Republican legislators had discriminatory intent in passing the law.
A federal court in North Carolina is now hearing testimony in a case that could have an impact on the rollback of voting rights across the country. At the start of this decade, North Carolina’s voting laws were a model of inclusion. The state allowed 17 days of early voting, teenagers who were approaching voting age could pre-register to vote, there was same-day registration and voters could even cast ballots outside their assigned precinct. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles was also required to contact drivers about being registered when they reported an address change. Then, three things happened. First, a Republican tide swept through the North Carolina legislature in 2010. Next, after the 2010 Census, the legislature drew a congressional district map that some have called the most gerrymandered in the country. The gerrymandering worked; most of the state’s Democratic voters were packed into a few odd, snake-like districts. Democrats won only four congressional seats in 2012, when the state’s registration and voting numbers indicated they should have won seven.
North Carolina: Plaintiffs rest case in federal voting rights trial; state attorneys call first witness | Winston-Salem Journal
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.
State Republican leaders deviated from customary practices to rush through the most significant election law changes in a generation, a Democratic state senator testified Tuesday. State Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, took the stand Tuesday afternoon in a trial in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem. Several groups, including the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice, are suing North Carolina and Gov. Pat McCrory over a 2013 election law that curtailed or eliminated voting practices that they say result in undue burdens on black and Hispanic voters, poor voters and young voters. Stein said that state Republican leaders had worked with Democratic legislators in April to craft a much shorter version of House Bill 589 that dealt strictly with requiring registered voters to have a photo ID when they cast their ballots. The legislation passed the House and then was sent to the Senate Rules committee, where it sat for several months, Stein said.
North Carolina: North Carolina Just Relaxed Its Voter ID Law, But Will Voters Get The Memo? | Huffington Post
Voting rights advocates were at least somewhat pleased when the North Carolina General Assembly unexpectedly voted in June to modify the state’s strict requirement that voters present government-issued photo ID at the polls. But now, they’re concerned that the state won’t adequately educate people about the softened ID law before it goes into effect next year. In July 2013, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) had signed an extensive package of voting restrictions that included the photo ID provision along with cuts to early voting and the elimination of same-day registration. A federal judge is currently hearing arguments over whether that law discriminates against African-Americans, Latinos and students. The trial is considered one of the biggest tests of the recently weakened federal Voting Rights Act. Supporters of voter ID laws argue that they combat in-person impersonation fraud (although the supporters present little evidence of such fraud), while opponents say they reduce turnout among minorities and younger voters.
North Carolina: Expert: Voters would have faced longer lines in ’12 had election law been in place | Winston-Salem Journal
An expert testified today that voters would have encountered drastically longer lines in 2012 had many of the provisions of North Carolina’s controversial election law been in effect. Theodore Allen, a professor of integrated systems engineering at Ohio State University, testified this morning in a federal trial in which plaintiffs — including the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice — are challenging North Carolina’s Voter Information Verification Act. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the legislation into law in August 2013. The plaintiffs are suing the state and McCrory. The law eliminated seven days of early voting, got rid of same-day voter registration and prohibited out-of-precinct provisional voting, among other changes. The law also required registered voters to have one out of eight qualifying photo IDs by 2016, though state legislators passed an amendment easing the restriction last month. The photo ID is not a part of the federal trial.
North Carolina: Ex-College Democrats president: Election law intimidated college students | Winston-Salem Journal
The former president of the state chapter of the College Democrats testified today that North Carolina’s new election law made it much more difficult for college students to vote. Louis Duke, a graduate of Campbell University in Harnett County, took the witness stand in a closely watched trial in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem. Several groups, including the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice, are suing the state and Gov. Pat McCrory over House Bill 589, which became law in August 2013. The law eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced the days of early voting from 17 to 10 and prohibited out-of-precinct provisional voting, among other things. Duke said that after the law, known as the Voter Information Verification Act, was passed, many students across North Carolina were confused and misinformed about what the law required. Duke said he helped organize voter registration drives for college students. The elimination of same-day voter registration made such efforts more difficult because there was a shorter amount of time to get students registered, Duke said. In North Carolina, the deadline to register to vote is 25 days before the election.
North Carolina: Black votes matter: the North Carolina electors who say new law is unfair | The Guardian
When Sandra Beatty goes somewhere and does something, it’s because she really wants to – five years after losing her vision and both her feet to diabetes, any errand is an ordeal. So when on 31 October, with the help of her 31-year-old daughter, she got out of her first-floor apartment, and climbed into the passenger seat of her friend’s Chevrolet Tahoe, it was because she planned to do one of what she considers her most important tasks: going to vote. It was not until weeks later, when Beatty got a call from the nonprofit Southern Coalition for Social Justice that she learned her ballot had been thrown out. “It hurt. It hurt because I thought I was doing something. I – I thought I was making some kind of progress and doing something. And it didn’t count,” Beatty said. Beatty made that statement in a deposition videotaped in May. It is one of several testimonies included in a lawsuit with national voting rights implications, brought by several voting rights groups and the federal Justice Department against North Carolina’s governor and electoral officials. In the trial, which began on Monday, the plaintiffs argue that the 2013 voting law revisions “unduly burden the right to vote and discriminate against African-American voters”, in violation of the constitution and the landmark civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is participating in the suit.
“The history of North Carolina is not on trial here,” Butch Bowers, a lawyer for Governor Pat McCrory, told a court in Winston-Salem on Monday. Pace Bowers, that’s precisely what’s on trial over the next two weeks. A group of plaintiffs—including the Justice Department, NAACP, and League of Women Voters—are suing the state over new voting laws implemented in 2013, saying that they represent an attempt to suppress the minority vote. The new laws were passed shortly after the Supreme Court struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act that required some jurisdictions to seek approval from the federal government before altering voting laws. All of those jurisdictions had been found to have voting practices that disenfranchised minorities; most of them were in the South. The new rules required a photo ID to vote; reduced early voting; ended same-day voter registration; banned the practice of casting ballots out of precinct; and ended pre-registration for teens. (The General Assembly later amended the photo-ID law, which had been the strictest in the nation, and it’s not being considered in the trial.)
Hours after Gov. Pat McCrory called on him to step down and after initially refusing to do so, Paul Foley resigned from the State Board of Elections following disclosures he pressed for details in an investigation that involved one of his law firm’s clients. Elections board Chairman Josh Howard announced Foley’s resignation early Thursday. In a statement, Foley said he hoped his resignation would help “avoid distractions from the important work of the board.” Howard said in an email to Executive Director Kim Westbrook Strach that he “regretfully” accepted Foley’s resignation.
North Carolina: Witnesses: Changes in N.C.’s election law caused voting hardships | Winston-Salem Journal
The second day of the closely watched federal trial on North Carolina’s election law featured testimony from two people, including one from Greensboro, who said their votes did not count in the November 2014 election because of changes that state Republicans made. The North Carolina NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the U.S. Department of Justice and others are suing North Carolina and Gov. Pat McCrory over the 2013 Voter Information Verification Act. The legislation was pushed by a Republican-dominated General Assembly a month after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The changes in the law included eliminating preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds, increasing the number of poll observers that each political party can assign and allowing a registered voter in a county to challenge another voter’s right to cast a ballot. Plaintiffs contend that the law is racially discriminatory and imposes unfair burdens on blacks and Latinos, poor people and the young. Attorneys for North Carolina and McCrory deny the allegations and argue that the law gives everyone an equal opportunity to vote.
North Carolina: Sides Dispute Basis of North Carolina Voting Laws as Trial Contesting Them Opens | The New York Times
A trial over North Carolina’s voting laws opened in a federal courtroom here on Monday, with civil rights groups and the Justice Department arguing that the state had turned back the clock with sweeping changes to its election laws, while the state said the revisions applied equally to all and left its voting rules well within the national mainstream. “The history of North Carolina is not on trial here,” said Butch Bowers, a lawyer representing Gov. Pat McCrory, in an opening statement. “We will show that there is no discrimination, intentional or otherwise.” The plaintiffs in the case said the legislation, enacted in 2013, was deliberately drafted to reduce voting by African-Americans. They say the legacy of past racism in North Carolina, including the social and economic disparities between black and white citizens, is deeply relevant.
North Carolina: What’s At Stake In The Trial Over North Carolina Voting Restrictions | Huffington Post
When Army Spc. Timothy Patillo, 26, returned to Fort Bragg after an overseas deployment a month before the 2014 elections, he went to a North Carolina department of motor vehicles office to ask how to obtain a driver’s license and register to vote. He was given a list of documents he would need to provide, but wasn’t told of the approaching voter registration deadline. He returned to the DMV soon after that with his identification documents and signed up to vote. Days later, a notice came in the mail telling him he’d missed the voter registration deadline. Patillo would have been able to vote if, as in previous elections, North Carolina allowed same-day registration. But because the Republican-controlled legislature voted to eliminate same-day registration in 2013, Patillo was disenfranchised.
Responding to criticism that legislators sharply weakened the state’s voter ID law last week, House Rules Chairman David Lewis posted a 1,000-word “open letter” Monday defending the changes. The House and Senate quickly approved the changes last week; the legislation is now on Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk awaiting action. It would set up a process for voters to use a “reasonable impediment declaration” outlining why they couldn’t provide a photo ID at the polls. Voters could claim one of eight reasons, including a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, or a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID. Voters using the form would provide their date of birth or the last four digits of their Social Security number, or show a voter registration card to prove their identity.
Legislation dropped quickly on the General Assembly by Republican leaders and approved Thursday would allow some North Carolina residents to legally vote in person without photo identification as will be required in 2016. The House and Senate separately voted by wide margins for the elections legislation, which would ease the mandate in a 2013 law that anyone showing up to vote at an early-voting center or Election Day precinct show one of eight qualifying photo IDs. Driver’s licenses, military IDs and U.S. passports meet the standard. This and other provisions in the 2013 law are being challenged in federal and state courts, with the first trial scheduled next month. Meanwhile, state election officials still are preparing to carry out the photo ID requirement.
Nearly two weeks before a federal trial is set to begin on the constitutionality of North Carolina’s voter ID rule and other election law changes made in 2013, the General Assembly has changed the rules. The N.C. Senate voted 44-2 Thursday to soften voter ID requirements set to go into effect next year, approving legislation that allows voters without photo IDs to cast provisional ballots. The House also approved the bill a few hours later in a 104-3 vote, sending it to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk. The bill, similar to a South Carolina law that was allowed to take effect in 2013, sets up a process for voters to use a “reasonable impediment declaration” outlining why they couldn’t provide a photo ID at the polls. Voters could claim one of eight reasons, including a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, or a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID.
A slate of civil rights groups put North Carolina on notice Monday, writing in a pre-litigation letter that the state must meet its voter registration obligations or risk a lawsuit. The letter alleges that the state’s motor vehicle and public assistance agencies are violating legal requirements set out in the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to provide voter registration services to citizens and transmit registration information to election officials. The legislation, signed in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton and commonly referred to as the “motor voter” law, delineates that state motor vehicle agencies must provide voter registration services whenever a person applies for, renews or changes his or her address on a driver’s license or government-issued identification card. It also requires public assistance, disability and military recruiting offices to facilitate voter registration.
North Carolina: Suit threatened over voting access; DHHS, Elections Board say they’ll investigate | News & Observer
Four national and state voting-rights organizations are threatening to sue North Carolina for what they contend are Gov. Pat McCrory administration’s violations of a federal law that requires the state to help poor people register to vote. The coalition gave written notice to the State Board of Elections and the state Department of Health and Human Services on Friday, triggering a 90-day period for the state agencies to comply with the law or face a lawsuit.
A North Carolina state judge has declined for now to strike down or uphold photo identification requirements to vote in person starting in 2016 — keeping the path clear for a summer trial in a lawsuit. In a ruling provided Friday to case attorneys, Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan denied a motion by voters and advocacy groups who sued and believe the voter ID mandate is unconstitutional because legislators created another qualification to cast a ballot. But Morgan also refused to accept all the arguments of attorneys representing the state and State Board of Elections to throw out the lawsuit. With the refusals for “judgment on the pleadings” — meaning arguments with essentially no additional evidence — Morgan is indicating factual issues between the court opponents must be resolved. A trial already had been set for July 13.
North Carolina’s upcoming photo identification requirement to vote received a full day in court Friday but no decision from a judge on whether the mandate is lawful to begin in 2016 or unconstitutionally harms the poor or older adults who lack IDs. Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan didn’t immediately rule on motions by each side that would essentially declare a winner, and said it may take him up to three weeks to do so. A summer trial is scheduled unless Morgan strikes down the requirement as unconstitutional or rejects all the claims of those who sued. Attorneys representing state officials sat at one table in a Wake County courtroom while lawyers for some voters and two advocacy groups sat at another making oral arguments on top of written briefs already filed since the August 2013 lawsuit. The litigation is one of four complaints filed soon after Gov. Pat McCrory signed an elections overhaul law that contained several voting changes. In additional to photo ID, the law reduced the number of early-voting period days by one week, repealed same-day registration and prohibited voting outside one’s home precinct on Election Day.
New voting restrictions and poll workers’ unpreparedness and confusion kept somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 eligible North Carolinians from voting in this fall’s general election. That’s the conclusion of a new report from Democracy North Carolina. The voting rights watchdog analyzed 500 reports from poll monitors in 38 counties and 1,400 calls to a voter assistance hotline to come up with its estimate, which does not include the thousands of people who might have voted before Election Day if the law had not cut the early voting period by a full week. The report found that most of the problems were due to three changes made by the law passed last year by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory: the repeal of same-day registration, which allowed qualified citizens to register and vote during the early voting period; the repeal of out-of-precinct voting, which allowed people to cast a valid provisional ballot at different polling sites in their county on Election Day; and the repeal of straight-party voting, which created backlogs at polling places and led to long waits for many. (Read the full report, which includes examples of specific challenges faced by voters, online here.)