North Carolina’s sweeping and controversial election reform law, HB 589, was upheld on Monday by a federal judge in Winston-Salem, prompting vows to appeal from the plaintiffs who allege that the legislation’s dramatic voting restrictions widely disenfranchise minority voters.
“The sweeping barriers imposed by this law undermine voter participation and have an overwhelmingly discriminatory impact on African-Americans. This ruling does not change that reality. We are already examining an appeal,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, in a statement.
Judge Thomas Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote (pdf) that the law’s controversial cutbacks on early voting, elimination of same-day registration and pre-registration for 17-year-olds, and notoriously strict voter ID requirement served a “legitimate state interest” by attempting to “detect and deter fraud.”
The hefty 485-page decision upheld all parts of the controversial law. The Guardian describes Schroeder’s rationale for his decision:
“This is our Selma,” proclaimed the Rev. William J. Barber II when the lawsuit was first filed in July 2015, as Common Dreams reported. Barber is a founder of the Moral Mondays movement and president of the North Carolina NAACP, which launched the suit against the state.
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This particular battle is being watched closely by activists and legal experts nationwide, as it is one of the first tests to a restrictive election reform law passed by a conservative legislature in the wake of the Supreme Court’s dismantling of key portions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. The issue is particularly pressing now, as there are mere months to go before the general election in November.
The Brennan Center for Justice reports that a full 22 states have put new voting restrictions into effect since 2010.
“This is part of a broader movement to curtail voting rights, which began after the 2010 election, when state lawmakers nationwide started introducing hundreds of harsh measures making it harder to vote,” the nonpartisan law and policy institute notes.
“This ruling further affirms that requiring a photo ID in order to vote is not only common sense, it’s constitutional,” Republican Gov. Pat McCrory pushed back at voting rights activists in a statement. McCrory is also currently combating heated criticism nationwide for signing the state’s repressive “hate bill” that mandates discrimination against LGBTQ people.
David Graham in TheAtlantic describes the potential legal battle ahead, and the ramifications the law may have on the upcoming November elections:
“Through widespread actions, rallies, marches and protests, we have said all along that we would accept no less than unabridged access to the ballot for all eligible voters,” Barber told the New York Times after Monday’s ruling.
“Just like those who carried on before us,” Barber continued, “we will continue our movement challenging regressive and discriminatory voter suppression tactics on behalf of African-Americans, Latinos, seniors, students and all those for whom democracy has been denied.”
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