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Federal Judge Could Dismiss Or Call For A Trial For NC's Photo ID Voting Requirement

Photo: Rosanell Eaton and Mary E. Perry
Jorge Valencia

A federal court judge in Winston-Salem is scheduled to hear arguments Friday on whether to throw out parts of three lawsuits that challenge North Carolina’s 2013 election law changes.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder is expected to hear from attorneys on whether he should dismiss portions of the suits that challenge the state’s new requirement for voters to show qualifying photo identification at polling stations.

Attorneys representing Republican North Carolina lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory filed motions in federal court saying voter ID portions of the lawsuits should be dismissed because lawmakers recently updated the 2013 voting law to allow more people to vote without qualifying IDs. Plaintiffs say the voter ID requirement is still an undue voting burden on minorities. The two sides failed to reach a settlement agreement, according to court filings.

The trial stems from three federal lawsuits filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the North Carolina NAACP and other agencies over provisions in the 2013 law. These groups claim the provision would reduce the turnout of black and Hispanic voters by requiring photo identification at polling stations, reducing the number of early voting days and eliminating same-day registration.

The state House and Senate voted in June to allow voters to use an alternative form of ID at voting booths if they can declare a “reasonable impediment” that prevents them from obtaining a qualifying government-issued ID. Conservative advocates criticized the new law because it softened the ID requirement, but lawmakers said it provided a “fail-safe” for eligible voters while preventing impersonation fraud.

Schroeder temporarily set aside arguments over the ID provision because the law was updated within days of the scheduled beginning of the trial. He could dismiss or schedule a new hearing to hear arguments about those sections of the suits.

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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