North Carolina’s new restrictions on voting may favor the Republican Party, but Democrats must prove more than that to beat them in court. GOP legislators who passed the rules last summer say they are designed to streamline and modernize the state’s voting while also blocking election fraud, a problem they describe as rampant and undetected. Opponents – including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder – say the claims of fraud are a ruse and that the laws are part of a national campaign by conservatives to suppress voting by minorities, the poor and the young. Those groups are part of an emerging Democratic coalition that swung North Carolina to President Barack Obama in 2008 and came close again four years later. Who wins in court may hinge on whether judges believe Republicans were motivated by politics or race. In other words, have black voters been discriminated against? Or were they legal targets of hard-ball GOP politics? For now, what Republicans describe as reforms, critics call “the Monster Law.”
Election expert Rick Hasen says the voting package amounts to “the largest and most restrictive” set of election laws put in place in the half-century since Congress approved the Voting Rights Act.
“You see pieces of what North Carolina has done in other states,” says Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California-Irvine. “But you can’t find a package like this anywhere else.”
The changes include everything from requiring voters to present a government identification card, to cutting back the days – but not the hours – of early voting. They also eliminated same-day registration and put new restrictions on voters who turn up in the wrong precinct.