Trial for Most Strict Voter ID Law Begins
North Carolina is being sued for its strict voting restrictions that prevent thousands of Black citizens from exercising their right to vote.
The trial began on Monday, with the state saying the discriminatory measures were put in place to prevent voter fraud. Civil rights groups and the Justice Department argued that the state had reversed the clock with changes to its election laws, according to the New York Times.
“The history of North Carolina is not on trial here,” said Butch Bowers, a lawyer representing Gov. Pat McCrory, in an opening statement. “We will show that there is no discrimination, intentional or otherwise.”
The plaintiffs in the case said the legislation, which went into effect in 2013, was deliberately drafted to reduce African-American voter turnout.
The plaintiffs cited North Carolina’s long history of racial discrimination as a key component of the measure, an issue they say is relevant to this day.
The measure on trial reduced early voting days, ended same-day voter registration, put an end to out-of-precinct voting and discontinued pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-old high school students.
The above options had been adopted to increase voter participation, and were disproportionately used by African-American and Latino voters.
Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court is presiding over the case, which has no jury. Judge Schroeder will have to decide whether the changes had an illegal impact on voters of color, and if so, whether the effects were intentional.
If Judge Schroeder finds that the state engaged in deliberate discrimination after the trial, he will have to then decide whether to grant the Justice Department’s request to reinstate federal pre-clearance of election amendments in North Carolina.
In a hearing that took place before the 2014 elections, Judge Schroeder, who was appointed by George W. Bush, declined to impose a preliminary injunction of the election law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overruled him, finding evidence of an unconstitutional impact and laid out new principles for evaluating changes in election law. The Supreme Court lifted the injunction without comment.
The trial could last up to four weeks. Check back for updates.