A federal judge has ruled that North Carolina's November election can be held under new voting rules drafted last year by Republican lawmakers.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder on Friday denied a motion seeking to hold the November vote under old rules, pending a trial scheduled for next year. A coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, filed suit over more than two dozen changes to voting laws approved by the GOP-controlled state legislature in 2013.
The groups say the changes are designed to suppress turnout at the polls among minorities, the elderly and college students - blocs considered more likely to vote for Democrats.
Schroeder also denied a state-submitted motion seeking to have the case dismissed, setting the stage for the trial.
Bob Stephens, Chief Legal Counsel to Governor McCrory, issued the following statement:
“This is a victory for North Carolina’s popular law that requires identification to vote,” said Stephens. “North Carolina is joining a majority of states in common sense protections that preserve the sanctity of the voting booth. Today’s ruling is just more evidence that this law is constitutional – as we have said from the very onset of this process,” Stephens continued.
Those challenging the changes are reacting to the decision.
“We are disappointed that the court’s failure to issue a preliminary injunction means that countless North Carolinians could be disenfranchised in this November’s election,” said Penda D. Hair, co-director of Advancement Project, which challenged H.B. 589 on behalf of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, along with co-counsel Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and North Carolina lawyers Adam Stein and Irving Joyner. “With the elimination of same-day registration, the shortening of the early voting period by a week, and preventing out-of-precinct provisional ballots from being counted, this harmful law burdens the constitutional right to vote, especially for voters of color who used those positive reforms at a significantly higher rate than White voters. In a democracy, voting should be fair and accessible to all citizens. In North Carolina this November, that simply will not be the case. We remain confident that when the court has access to the full evidence in this case, and when we have a full trial next summer, we will prevail and ultimately restore the voting rights of North Carolina’s citizens.
“We will not rest in our efforts to ensure that the people can make their voices heard this November,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. “The right to vote lies at the heart of our democracy. Our movement against this voter suppression law is built on the legacy of those who have testified before us, with their feet and blood, to fight for equal rights in North Carolina and the nation. We will not falter in our efforts to mobilize until this extreme law is repealed.”
“This is only the beginning of a long legal fight to restore the rights of North Carolina voters and renew the integrity of democracy in the state,” said Denise Lieberman, Advancement Project Senior Attorney. “The rapid and irregular legislative process that forced H.B. 589 through the General Assembly suggests that sponsors knowingly and tactically targeted the very measures that have increased the participation of voters of color. We look forward to driving these points home in next year’s full trial.”