Judge to rule on voting law changes

Jul. 08, 2014 @ 05:31 PM

A federal judge will rule this week on a preliminary injunction filed to halt changes to North Carolina’s voting laws passed by the N.C. General Assembly last year.

The case’s plaintiffs — the U.S. Department of Justice, North Carolina NAACP, League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union — argue that the state’s requirement for voters to show photo identification before voting is unconstitutional. Attorneys for the state will argue that requiring photo identification will prevent voter fraud. Backing up their claim are thousands of instances of possible voter fraud presented by the State Board of Elections earlier this year.

But plaintiffs argue the law’s changes make it harder for people to vote, specifically African Americans, the poor and the elderly. Besides the I.D. requirement, the law eliminated same-day registration, shortened the early voting period and ended early voter registration for eligible 16- and 17-year-olds.

The judge will only rule on the injunction in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem this week. A trial to either strike down or uphold the law is scheduled for next summer, the Associated Press reports. Granting an injunction would delay implementing voting changes until the trial.

Problems with the law make it much harder for people with limited mobility, low income and special circumstances to vote, Union County NAACP chapter chairman Nathel Hailey said.

“A lot of people who were born at home don’t have a birth certificate,” Hailey said. “And there are people in assisted living facilities who can’t easily go get a photo I.D.”

Law proponents argue that people must show identification to buy alcohol, paying taxes and getting admission into certain venues. They believe that requiring identification to vote is not unreasonable. Since most people have or can get government-issued identification the law is not unfair.

Critics counter by arguing that buying alcohol and going to clubs is not a right granted by the U.S. Constitution, while voting is. They believe that a requirement that blocks any individual from voting when it is their constitutional right is unlawful. Opponents say legislators ignored compromises in the law that would have allowed residents to use other information, like utility or tax bills, as proof of their identification.

“I just hope the plaintiffs can show the judge how much additional burden the law puts on some members of the community,” Hailey said.