A federal judge on Friday refused to grant civil rights groups and the US Department of Justice a preliminary injunction against a North Carolina voter suppression measure, signed into law by Republican Governor Pat McCrory last year. The law will now take effect for the November 2014 general election while the groups’ three consolidated lawsuits are pending.
The ruling by US District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder, nominated by President George W. Bush, allows four provisions of the North Carolina voter suppression law, HB 589, to remain in effect: the shortening of the early voting period, the elimination of same-day voter registration during the early-voting period, a prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast by voters in their home county but outside their home voting precinct, and the termination of a preregistration program for 16- and 17-year-olds. The voter identification portion of the law was not specifically at issue in this ruling since it does not take effect until 2016.
“The right to vote lies at the hear of our democracy,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP. “Our movement against this voter suppression law is built on the legacy of those who have testified before us, with their feet and blood, to fight for equal rights in North Carolina and the nation. We will not falter in our efforts to mobilize until this extreme law is repealed.”
In his decision, Judge Schroeder found that the plaintiffs – which included the North Carolina NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and many others – did not meet the burden for a preliminary injunction, but that the case should not be dismissed outright, as the state of North Carolina had urged the court to do. A full trial, also dealing with the voter ID provision, is scheduled for next year.
Voter suppression laws like the one enacted in North Carolina after the US Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder, specifically target voters of color as well as low-income voters, women, and the elderly. North Carolina’s voter identification provision is particularly restrictive for college students because student identification cards (including those issued by state-run universities) and out-of-state driver’s license will not be accepted – although military and veteran identification cards will be. African-American voters, Hispanic voters, and voters over age 65 are also less likely to have a government issued photo id, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, and many women do not have a government ID that reflects their current name. The elimination of early voting, same-day registration, and counting of provisional ballots in North Carolina are also expected to disproportionately affect voters of color who used these processes at a higher rate than white voters.