Judge To Weigh Trial Schedule On NC Voting Changes
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A federal judge was set to hear arguments Thursday over whether a trial on the legality of recent Republican-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting laws should be held before or after the November 2014 election.
Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina Board of Elections have been sued over the voting changes by the U.S. Justice Department, the state chapter of the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters, and other groups. Those separate cases will likely be consolidated.
Most of the plaintiffs want the trial to be held before the election, in the hope a favorable ruling will dismantle new requirements they say represent a cynical partisan attempt to tamp down voter turnout among the elderly, college students, African-Americans, and other groups considered more likely to vote for Democrats.
Lawyers for McCrory and GOP legislators say it will take them at least a year to prepare, which would delay the case until after the 2014 election.
The hearing is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem.
The changes approved earlier this year include provisions cutting the early voting period by a week, increasing access for partisan poll watchers and eliminating a popular high school civics program that encouraged students to register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays. Also at issue is a new requirement for voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls starting in 2016.
The judge could decide to block the changes from taking effect before the 2014 election if the trial to settle the issues cannot be held in time.
Next year’s ballot will include the first state legislative races held since the Republican-dominated General Assembly approved a sweeping conservative agenda. Included on that agenda are tax cuts largely favoring corporations and the wealthy, decreases to per-pupil spending for public education, and legislation expected to result in the shutdown of most of the state’s abortion clinics.
Also at stake is the high-profile race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Kay Hagan, and control of the state’s 13 Congressional districts.
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