North Carolina awaits voter ID mandate for weeks
Feb 07, 2016 10:49 PM EST
The federal judge decision over North Carolina's voter identification law may not be known for weeks after a six-day bench trial. The new requirement will likely begin when early in-person voting begins on March 3.
North Carolina's voter identification law was first approved by Republican elected officials in 2013. The mandate requires citizens to show state-issued photo ID before casting ballot.
Weeks after the measure signed into law, the U.S. Justice Department as well as the state chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and League of Women Voters have challenged the law. They sued the state for allegations that the requirements were racially discriminatory to black and Latino citizens who are less likely to have photo ID or the means to acquire it, according to the Guardian.
The lawsuits also claim that state leaders passed the law with intention of suppressing minority votes. The plaintiffs also challenged the state's elimination of same-day voter registration during early voting and a reduction in the number of early voting days.
The six-day trial in multiple lawsuits challenging the law ended on Monday. The statute is supposed to be implemented for the first time during the March 15 presidential primary, The Associated Press reports. The election will be the first time the state's voter ID law will be enforced, unless the judge intervenes.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the North Carolina's voter ID law was one of a number passed by states after the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2013 that it was unconstitutional to get federal approval before changing voting laws based on historical data of discrimination.
An attorney representing the state NAACP said the bill is confusing and will funnel registered voters without IDs into separate lines at voting precincts, where they must sign other documents and worry about whether their vote will count.
While a private attorney representing the law's supporters said plaintiffs' argument were based on rhetoric and speculation and that the plaintiffs don't have any evidence that the state of North Carolina intentionally discriminated against anyone.
The U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder wrote in an earlier ruling that "in light of the historical struggle for African-Americans' voting rights, North Carolinians have reason to be wary of changes to voting laws." However, the judge has refused plaintiffs' request to block the law before trial.
The judge ruled in January that the state had engaged in extensive efforts to educate voters about the need for photo ID, offered free photo ID, and assisted individuals in getting a photo ID.
Judge Schroeder required both sides to provide additional documentations by February 24.