The legality of a 2013 North Carolina law requiring identification to vote will be challenged in a trial set to begin in federal court Monday ahead of March U.S. presidential primaries in the state. The trial in Winston-Salem, the second to stem from the law, is one of several closely watched voting-rights lawsuits unfolding as the election season gets under way. In 2013, Republican Gov. Patrick McCrory signed a law barring people without photo identification from voting. The move sparked a number of lawsuits by the U.S. Justice Department, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others that were eventually consolidated into one suit claiming that the law disproportionately affected black and other minority voters who are less likely to have access to birth certificates and other documents needed to obtain photo identification.
“Because of lingering socioeconomic effects resulting from the long history of discrimination in North Carolina, African-American voters will, on average, bear a materially heavier burden than white voters when attempting to obtain photo identification that satisfies the requirements of [the law],” lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers.
The North Carolina law was one of a number passed by states after the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2013 it was unconstitutional to require states to get federal approval before changing voting laws based on historical data of discrimination.
It is unclear whether the challenge to North Carolina’s law will be resolved in time for the March vote. A two-week trial in July examined some provisions of the law including the elimination of same-day voter registration during early voting and a reduction in the number of early voting days. But the key question of voter identification was set aside for the trial starting Monday. The judge hasn’t ruled on the earlier trial.