Across the United States, eligible residents have the opportunity to join voter rolls and vote, but they don’t all have the same options or ease of access. Voting laws vary widely from state to state. “There are certain federal requirements that limit state discretion,” said John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University. “For instance, states cannot set a registration closing deadline of greater than 30 days before an election. But for the most part, states have significant discretion in how they provide for voting to take place.” For example, about two-thirds of the states allow in-person early voting, but the early voting periods range anywhere from four to 45 days. About two-thirds of states currently require voters to present identification of some kind at the polls, but they vary greatly in what kind of documents they require and what they do if a person doesn’t provide it. “Some states have certainly made it easier than others,” said Jason Husser, assistant professor of political science at Elon University.
In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a sweeping election law that eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced early voting from 17 days to 10, and added a photo ID requirement, among other changes.
The N.C. NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the U.S. Department of Justice and others sued North Carolina and Gov. Pat McCrory over the law. The law went on trial last week in federal court in Winston-Salem.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit contend the law is racially discriminatory and places unfair burdens on blacks and Hispanics, the poor and the young. Attorneys for the state and McCrory deny the allegation and argue that the law gives everyone an equal opportunity to vote.