• Case is one of several closely watched voting-rights lawsuits unfolding as election season gets under way
    A 2013 North Carolina law requiring identification to vote sparked a number of lawsuits that claimed it disproportionately affected black and other minority voters.  A 2013 North Carolina law requiring identification to vote sparked a number of lawsuits that claimed it disproportionately affected black and other minority voters. Photo: Getty Images

    The legality of a 2013 North Carolina law requiring identification to vote will be challenged in a trial set to begin in federal court Monday ahead of March U.S. presidential primaries in the state.

    The trial in Winston-Salem, the second to stem from the law, is one of several closely watched voting-rights lawsuits unfolding as the election season gets under way.

    In 2013, Republican Gov. Patrick McCrory signed a law barring people without photo identification from voting. The move sparked a number of lawsuits by the U.S. Justice Department, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others that were eventually consolidated into one suit claiming that the law disproportionately affected black and other minority voters who are less likely to have access to birth certificates and other documents needed to obtain photo identification.

    “Because of lingering socioeconomic effects resulting from the long history of discrimination in North Carolina, African-American voters will, on average, bear a materially heavier burden than white voters when attempting to obtain photo identification that satisfies the requirements of [the law],” lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers.

    The North Carolina law was one of a number passed by states after the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2013 it was unconstitutional to require states to get federal approval before changing voting laws based on historical data of discrimination.

    It is unclear whether the challenge to North Carolina’s law will be resolved in time for the March vote. A two-week trial in July examined some provisions of the law including the elimination of same-day voter registration during early voting and a reduction in the number of early voting days. But the key question of voter identification was set aside for the trial starting Monday. The judge hasn’t ruled on the earlier trial.

    Defenders of the law, including lawyers for Gov. McCrory and the North Carolina Department of Justice, say the 2013 law was necessary to prevent voter fraud and that an amendment made in June of last year resolved potentially discriminatory effects. The amendment allowed voters to cast provisional ballots without one of six specified forms of identification if they could claim there was “reasonable impediment” to showing the ID.

    Critics of North Carolina’s voter ID law say state officials haven’t properly educated the public and poll workers about what ID is needed to vote.  Critics of North Carolina’s voter ID law say state officials haven’t properly educated the public and poll workers about what ID is needed to vote. Photo: Getty Images

    The Justice Department and NAACP have argued the fix wasn’t enough because state officials haven’t properly educated the public and poll workers about what ID is needed to vote, and because the “reasonable impediment” exception will be left entirely to poll workers’ discretion.

    Irving Joyner, one of the lawyers challenging the law, said the state board of elections hasn’t provided any information on the “reasonable impediment” exception. “We want the reasonable impediments to be broadly construed in favor of the voter,” he said.

    A spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Justice said she couldn’t comment on a pending case.

    Write to Christopher M. Matthews at christopher.matthews@wsj.com

     

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/north-carolinas-voter-id-law-goes-on-trial-in-federal-court-1453545004

    Posted by Dana West @ 6:58 pm for Elections, National politics |

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