Court Must Block North Carolina Voting Restrictions Before November
A series of North Carolina voting restrictions will make it harder for minorities to vote and must be blocked by a federal court before the November election, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law argued in an amicus brief filed in North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory.
North Carolina passed a far-reaching restrictive voting law in the summer of 2013, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision gutting a key portion of the Voting Rights Act. The law cut back on early voting, eliminated same-day registration, instituted a strict photo ID requirement, ended pre-registration for 16- and 17-year olds, and made it harder for provisional ballots cast by eligible voters to be counted, among other restrictions.
These new rules will make it harder for North Carolina citizens to vote, and evidence has shown that African-American voters are more likely to be harmed — they have voted during early voting at much higherrates than white voters, for example, and have also used same-day registration more frequently. State officials first introduced same-day registration and early voting only a few years ago, and they proved to be very popular among African-Americans voting in the 2008 and 2012 elections.
“The courts are critically important to protect our voting rights,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “North Carolina’s new law is widely regarded as one of the most restrictive in the country. Unless the courts step in to block restrictive and discriminatory laws, politicians will be free to manipulate the voting rules for their own benefit. It is important to block this law before the election, and before it makes it harder for hundreds of thousands of people to vote this November.”
“Before the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, North Carolina’s voting restrictions would have been automatically put on hold until the state demonstrated they were not discriminatory,” added Democracy Program Counsel Michael Li. “Although that critical protection is no longer in effect, the courts are still an important bulwark against discrimination and should ensure the November election is not marred by unfair voting rules. A full trial is scheduled for next year. Until then, this law should not be allowed to go into effect without a thorough review.”
A full trial is scheduled for July 2015, but advocates challenging the restrictions asked a trial court to temporarily block the portions of the law scheduled to go into effect for the November 2014 election. (This does not include the photo ID requirement, which is slated to take effect in 2016.) A federal judge denied the preliminary injunction motion in August. That ruling is being appealed and is scheduled to be heard by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on September 25.
The hearing comes as many Americans face an ever-shifting voting landscape before heading to the polls this November. North Carolina is one of seven states with a major ongoing lawsuit challenging voting restrictions ahead of the 2014 election. And since the 2010 election, new restrictions are slated to be in place in 22 states, 15 for the first time this year.
See all of the Brennan Center’s Election 2014 resources.