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Hullabaloo


Monday, January 25, 2016

 

Voter ID goes to court in NC

by Tom Sullivan


Rev. William Barber speaking at Moral March on Raleigh
2015. Flickr photo by AGFE via Creative Commons

U.S. federal Judge Thomas Schroeder in Winston-Salem, North Carolina today hears a case against the state over its sweeping voter ID bill. HB 589 changed overnight from about 17 pages to over 50 in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Shelby County v. Holder that weakened the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The NAACP, the U.S. Justice Department and others claim the photo ID requirement unduly burdens black and Hispanic voters:

The trial over North Carolina’s voter ID law is set to begin Monday in front of Schroeder, a federal judge since 2008 who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush.

The legal battle is one of several being watched across the nation as the courts address questions of the fairness and lasting impacts that ID laws have on voting rights.

In North Carolina, voters will be required this year to use one of six specified IDs when they cast ballots — unless they can show they faced a “reasonable impediment” for getting one.

Schroeder already ruled that the ID requirement could be in effect during the upcoming March 15 primary. The leader of the Moral Mondays/Forward Together movement tells the Guardian:

“We see this as a fundamental attack on our democracy which we are fighting with everything we have,” said the Rev William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “Extremists in the North Carolina legislature have been working feverishly to keep African Americans, Latino families, students and seniors from the ballot box.”

[...]

North Carolina’s law, HB 589, is among the sharpest assaults on voting rights that have been introduced by Republican-controlled legislatures in the wake of Shelby. The supreme court ruling removed an obligation on largely southern states to seek federal government approval before they made any changes to voting procedures.

The end of so-called “pre-clearance” effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act that for 50 years had stood as a bulwark against the widespread disenfranchisement of black voters in the deep south in the days of segregation.

Republicans in North Carolina moved swiftly to introduce an expanded version of HB 589 just days after the Shelby ruling came down. Other provisions in the legislation, that were subject to a previous trial last July in which a ruling is still pending, included reducing the number of early voting days, ending same-day registering to vote, abolishing out-of-precinct voting and prohibiting campaigns encouraging young people to sign up to vote before their 18th birthday.

The NC NAACP and a broad coalition of groups opposed to the sweeping rightward shift of the state since Republicans gained control in 2010 will again hold a mass rally in the state capital on Saturday February 13. Barber lays out his blueprint "to mobilize in the streets, at the polls, and in the courtroom" at AlterNet.

The NCGOP has thrown so many curve balls at voters that there could be a great deal of confusion at the polls in November. The March 15 primary will be a trial run for seeing just how much.


Moral March on Raleigh 2014. Flickr photo by A Jones
via Creative Commons