State Politics

Closing arguments delayed in NC voting rights trial

The federal judge presiding over the North Carolina voting rights trial agreed Thursday to give the state more time to prepare for closing arguments, pushing them to Friday.

Thomas Farr, a private attorney representing state legislators who shepherded the 2013 election laws through the General Assembly, told U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder he needed more time to cross-examine rebuttal witnesses.

On Thursday morning, attorneys for the NAACP, League of Women Voters, U.S. Justice Department and others challenging key provisions of the 2013 election law changes asked experts and voters about testimony presented by attorneys representing the state.

The challengers’ witnesses offered rebuttal to testimony from state experts and election board workers.

The rebuttal witnesses raised questions about analyses of voter data. These witnesses said their look at statistics reviewed by the state brought them to different conclusions on whether eliminating same-day registration and cutting early-voting numbers negatively affected black, Hispanic and young voters.

Since 2013, when the changes went into effect, experts for the state and governor, who supported the changes, argued that voter turnout among African-Americans had increased in 2014.

Experts for the challengers argue that the same data used by experts for the state show that African-American turnout had been on a sharp rise between 2006 and 2012. After 2013, the challengers’ experts argue, that trajectory leveled off, a sign they contend shows election law changes have negative impact on African-Americans.

The trial is set to wrap up Friday, not Thursday as initially scheduled.

The questions for the judge, who is not likely to rule on the case from the bench this week, is whether statistics, voter testimony and other analyses from expert witnesses show what the challengers allege.

The challengers contend that curbing early voting, prohibiting registering to vote and casting a ballot on the same day, and ending a teen pre-registration program are intended to have a discriminatory effect on black, Hispanic and young voters.

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