Civil rights activists seek block on North Carolina's voter ID law

Winston-Salem Journal,  December 4, 2019

"For the second time in four years, a version of North Carolina’s election law was in federal court, this time based on allegations that if enacted, black and Latino voters would be disenfranchised.

Attorneys for the North Carolina NAACP and several local chapters, including Winston-Salem, were in a Winston-Salem courtroom Tuesday asking U.S. District Judge Loretta C. Biggs to grant a preliminary injunction that would block the law from going into effect for the March 3, 2020, primary elections.

They argued that black and Latino voters disproportionately lack the photo IDs required under the law and face more obstacles to obtaining those photo IDs. The law would result in black and Latino voters being denied the right to vote at the polls, they argued. They further argued that state Republicans intentionally put the law into place to racially discriminate against black and Latino voters. The North Carolina NAACP filed a federal lawsuit against the law in December 2018.

Attorneys representing North Carolina and the State Board of Elections said the law is not discriminatory and that it provides many provisions that would allow everyone the opportunity to vote. They mentioned several times that the law allows for what is known as a reasonable impediment for people who say they could not get a photo ID. That reasonable impediment could be lack of transportation, they said. People also can file for a provisional ballot if they have a photo ID but did not bring it to a polling place. Their vote would be counted as long as they brought a photo ID back to elections officials within 10 days after the election, attorneys for the state said.

Republicans have argued for a photo ID to prevent voter fraud and increase voter confidence. Voter fraud (the kind where a person impersonates someone else to cast a ballot) is rare. Lorraine Minnitte, an expert who testified in a previous trial on the state’s elections law, said that between 2000 and 2014, the State Board of Elections referred only two cases of in-person voter fraud for prosecution.

Biggs didn’t make a decision on Tuesday but told attorneys on both sides that she plans to make a decision quickly. Paul Cox, an attorney for the State Board of Elections, said elections director Karen Brinson Bell has indicated that she would need to know by Dec. 31 whether the photo ID law would be blocked."



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Hannah Piercey