A federal judge could decide by this summer whether North Carolina’s new voting laws should be blocked for the Nov. 4 general elections. Attorneys filed motions for a preliminary injunction late Monday in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of North Carolina, which has jurisdiction in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, comparing the new law to past efforts, such as poll taxes, that were designed to disenfranchise black voters. Supporters of the new election changes filed a motion Monday seeking to throw out a trio of lawsuits filed last year challenging the law. The motions ask a federal judge to block the law that Gov. Pat McCrory signed last August. The law, referred to in court papers as House Bill 589, is officially known as the Voter Information Verification Act and includes a number of provisions. The most well-known is a requirement that voters present a photo ID, beginning in 2016. But the law also reduces the number of days for early voting from 17 to 10, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting and prohibits county elections officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the right county but wrong precinct. In addition, the law gets rid of pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, increases the number of poll observers that each political party assigns during an election and allows a registered voter in a county to challenge another voter’s right to cast a ballot.
Soon after the passage of the law, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit. Separately, a number of groups and plaintiffs that included the state NAACP and the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit. Plaintiffs in that suit include two Winston-Salem residents and Emmanuel Baptist Church.
In the motions for a preliminary injunction, opponents argue that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 14 th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. According to the motions, state legislators rushed through an omnibus elections bill last year soon after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that required states and other communities to seek federal approval for changes in voting laws. Forty counties in North Carolina had been under the Section 5 requirement.