The NAACP has appealed a federal judge’s decision to allow elections to proceed under the sweeping changes made to North Carolina voting laws in 2013.
U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder rejected a request earlier this month by the NAACP and other challengers of the 2013 overhaul to hold the November elections under old election laws instead of the ones at the heart of the lawsuit scheduled for trial in July 2015.
The NAACP, the League of Women Voters, registered Democrats in North Carolina and others contend that voters will suffer “irreparable damages” if any elections scheduled before the hearing of the lawsuit are held under the laws adopted by the Republican-led General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory last summer.
“If one person’s right to vote is denied or abridged this election, this democracy suffers,” the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said in a prepared statement. “While restoring the rights of North Carolina voters and renewing the integrity of democracy in our state will require a long legal fight, we must start now by doing everything we can to block this law for the November election.”
The challengers contend the new law discriminates against African-Americans, Latinos and voters younger than 25. They have asked the court to block provisions that end same-day registration, curb the number of days on which people can vote early, do away with a popular teen preregistration program and prohibit people from casting ballots out of their assigned precinct
The provision of the 2013 election law overhaul that requires voters to present a photo ID at the polls does not go into effect until 2016, when presidential races will be on the ballot.
North Carolina voters will go to the polls Nov. 4 to decide a U.S. Senate race of national interest – the contest between Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro, and Republican challenger, Thom Tillis, the N.C. House speaker. Libertarian Sean Haugh also is seeking the seat.
“Any votes that are prevented in this election are votes that will be forever lost, which is why we are appealing the court’s decision.” said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair.
In its recent ruling, the District Court also denied the State’s motion to dismiss the case, ruling that plaintiffs had presented plausible legal claims that require a full trial next year.
“We are pleased that the judge denied the state’s motion to dismiss, and found that our claims against this law merit discovery and a trial on the merits,” said Kirkland & Ellis partner Daniel T. Donovan. “But much is at stake if the law is not stopped now, and our clients will use all legal avenues available to ensure that elections are fair and accessible to all citizens.”
When Schroeder issued his decision earlier this month to let the 2014 elections proceed under 2013 law, state Rep. David Lewis, a Republican from Harnett County, and a main shepherd of the law through the state House last summer, told The Associated Press that it felt good “to have at least won this small fight.” The judge did not, however, agree to a request to dismiss the lawsuit.
“I’m very pleased that the judge has not found a reason to impair the commonsense election law that we passed that we’ve said all along gives everyone a full opportunity to participate in the election process, while at the same time improving the real and the perceived integrity of the election system,” Lewis added at the time.