State Politics

NC voter ID trial set for Jan. 25

The federal judge who will preside over the trial about North Carolina’s voter ID law told attorneys in an order this week to be ready to make their arguments on Jan. 25.

In a status report filed two days before the end of the year, the NAACP and others challenging the law continue to argue that much confusion remains about what voters will need in order to cast ballots in the March 15 primaries.

The arguments come nearly six months after a two-week trial in July at which U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder listened to evidence in support of and in opposition to other elections law changes contained in a 2013 overhaul by the Republican-led General Assembly.

On the eve of that trial, the legislature amended the voter ID portion of the overhaul to allow voters to cast provisional ballots without one of six specified photo identification cards. Because the change came so close to the start of the summer trial, the judge told the parties he would wait to hear arguments on that portion of the case.

The NAACP and others have contended that requiring IDs to vote has a disproportionate negative impact on minority voters, who don’t always have access to birth certificates and other documents needed for the identification cards.

Attorneys for the state have argued that the 2015 amendment made the 2013 legal challenge moot.

Since fall, attorneys for both sides have tried to reach consensus on the ID portion of the larger challenge to the 2013 election law changes.

In a Dec. 29 status report, the challengers reiterated their request to block the implementation of the ID rule for the March primaries.

They raised concerns about the form and content of advertisements being circulated in North Carolina to educate voters about the election law changes. In addition to pushing for more public hearings, the challengers urge that formal rules be adopted on the procedures for evaluating a voter’s declaration of a “reasonable impediment” to getting a specified ID.

They also want more specifics on the range of authority that will be granted to county boards of election for considering the validity of such declarations.

Other provisions of North Carolina’s election laws that are being challenged are:

▪ The decrease in the number of early-voting days.

▪ The elimination of a provision that allowed voters to cast a ballot the same day that they registered to vote – and to vote outside their assigned precinct.

▪ The end to a program that pre-registered 16- and 17-year olds.

The judge has yet to issue a ruling on those challenges.

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1