North Carolina's sweeping voting changes to go on trial in 2015

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:57pm EST

A man fills out a voter authorization form as he arrives to vote at the Covenant Presbyterian Church during the U.S. presidential election in Charlotte, North Carolina November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane

A man fills out a voter authorization form as he arrives to vote at the Covenant Presbyterian Church during the U.S. presidential election in Charlotte, North Carolina November 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Chris Keane

Related Topics

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - Challenges to North Carolina's new voter regulations that limit early voting and require voters to show photo identification at the polls will not go to trial until after the 2014 mid-term elections, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

The groups protesting the state's new law will have a chance, however, to argue for some of its provisions to be blocked before the full case is heard, Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake said at a hearing in Winston-Salem.

The law's opponents had sought a quicker resolution to the legal battle. A trial ahead of next November's elections would help prevent "irreparable loss" for some voters, said an attorney for the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"It's going to determine whether people actually have the right to vote," said NAACP lawyer Daniel Donovan. "The clock is ticking."

Despite being on opposite sides of the case, attorneys for both the state and federal government asked for the trial to be held in 2015, saying the complex and data-intensive nature of the case required more time to prepare.

The state takes seriously any potential infringement of voting rights but also the right for laws passed by elected leaders to be put into effect, said Senior Deputy Attorney General Alexander Peters.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed North Carolina's sweeping voting changes into law in August, prompting a flurry of lawsuits by various parties, including the U.S. Justice Department, the League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP.

The law's critics argue that reducing early voting days, eliminating same-day registration and imposing a photo-identification requirement for in-person voting make it harder for minorities and others who are likely to vote for Democratic candidates to cast their ballots.

In its suit, the Justice Department said black residents comprised 23 percent of North Carolina's registered voters but accounted for 34 percent of registered voters who did not have a driver's license or other ID provided by the state's motor vehicles department.

Republican lawmakers said the changes were needed to combat voter fraud.

The law takes effect on January 1, though the photo ID requirement does not begin until 2016.

The judge said the groups challenging the law could pursue legal action that likely would result in a hearing next summer to determine if parts of the law should be temporarily blocked.

A full trial would be held during the summer of 2015 at the earliest.

Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan is among those up for re-election in North Carolina in 2014. The outcome of her race could help determine whether Republicans or Democrats hold a majority in the U.S. Senate for the last two years of President Barack Obama's final term.

Thursday's hearing drew several dozen people who said they oppose the new voting provisions and believe the legal limbo will confuse voters.

"This is not about just black and white," said the Reverend William Barber II, president of the state's NAACP chapter. "It's about fundamental democracy."

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Scott Malone and Dan Grebler)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
4825 wrote:
Anyone that is a citizen of NC that is registered to vote is able to get an ID. Their argument does not hold water and makes one question the motive behind the desire to not show identification when voting. As a registered voter, I feel my rights are violated by not having voter identification on the federal level. Voter ID should be nationwide.

Dec 12, 2013 6:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

A tourist takes a plunge as she swims at Ngapali Beach, a popular tourist site, in the Thandwe township of the Rakhine state, October 6, 2013. Picture taken October 6, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR3FOI0

Where do you want to go?

We look at when to take trips, budget considerations and the popularity of multigenerational family travel.   Video