Fed Judge Rejects Challenge to North Carolina Voter Law

By:  Raven Clabough
Fed Judge Rejects Challenge to North Carolina Voter Law

A determination from a federal judge in North Carolina on Friday marks a significant moment in the battle over voter ID laws in the United States and is all but certain to come before the Supreme Court.

On Friday, Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of the Federal District Court rejected an effort by the NAACP and other civil rights groups and the Justice Department to block the application of a Republican-backed state voter ID law.

The New York Times writes of the North Carolina voting law:

The law, which was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, in 2013, will require voters to show a picture ID at the polls, but not until 2016. At issue in this case were changes already in effect, including the seven-day reduction of the state’s early-voting period; the elimination of a program that allowed for registration and voting on the same day during early voting; a ban on counting provisional ballots when voters cast them out of their home precinct; and a program that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to "preregister" in anticipation of coming elections. The plaintiffs, including the state N.A.A.C.P., had argued that many of these provisions were particularly popular with black voters.

In his 125-page ruling, Judge Schroeder rejected the plaintiffs' arguments that the law, said to be one of the toughest in the nation, would place "disproportionate burdens" on African-American voters who intend to participate in the upcoming elections. He noted that North Carolina's history of racism does give "reason to be wary of changes in voting law," but added that there are a number of ways in which black voters have opportunities to get to the polls, even with the reduced ballot access written into the law.

He cited, for example, the part of the law that reduces the period for early voting from 17 days to 10 days. He wrote that while witnesses opined that the change would impact the get-out-the-vote efforts, "no witnesses testified that he or she will not be able to adjust operations readily to fit the new early-voting period." His decision ultimately declared that plaintiffs failed to prove that they were "likely to be irreparably harmed," and thus did not require the injunction.

Penda Hair of the Advancement Project, one of the lawyers for the state NAACP, stated that her team has not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling, but that they plan to challenge the voter ID provision in a full trial, set for next July. "We are disappointed," said Hair, "but we remain committed to prevailing on the trial on the merits."

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