North Carolina’s new voting law is the most stringent legislation passed by a Southern state since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in June. Governor Pat McCrory signed the measure into law Monday, but it will have to survive a legal challenge before it can take it effect next year. Below is a look at what the law says, why it’s being challenged and how Tar Heel state voters feel about it.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Beginning in 2016, voters will be required to present a photo ID at the polls. But the law also enacts a number of other measures that end or restrict certain voting practices.
Pre-registration, a program that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to be eligible to vote upon turning 18, will be eliminated in 2014, as will same-day voter registration. Voters will no longer be allowed to cast a ballot outside of their home precinct or cast a “straight party vote” – a convenience option that let a voter pick all the candidates from one party instead of in each race. The law also calls for polling hours to be strictly adhered to, though anyone waiting when the polls close will be permitted to vote. And it reduces early voting hours by a week.
DOES IT HAVE SUPPORT?
A report from local TV station WRAL found 69% of surveyed voters back the voter ID provision, but support plummets when the full law is taken into account.
According to a new poll from Public Policy Polling, 50% of surveyed voters oppose the bill in its entirety and 39% are in favor of it. The early voting reduction is opposed by 59% of voters, with 33% supporting it, while 68% are opposed to eliminating straight-party tickets and 21% support it.
WHY IT’S BEING CHALLENGED
Three lawsuits have been filed so far, two on the grounds that the shorter early voting period is discriminatory and the third alleging a violation of the state constitution.
“Eliminating a huge part of early voting will cut off voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of citizens,” says Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project. “It will turn Election Day into a mess, shoving more voters into even longer lines.”
The ACLU, in partnership with the Southern Coalition for Justice, and the NAACP of North Carolina have both filed lawsuits against the law under both Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th Amendments.
Section 2 of the VRA prohibits voting procedures and practices that discriminate on the basis or race, color, or language. The ACLU says more than 70% of black voters used early voting in the 2008 and 2012 elections. They also note that about 250,000 voters utilized same-day registration in 2012.
According to the George Mason University United States Elections Project, 63% of voters in North Carolina voted early in 2012, including 47% of Democrats and 31% of Republicans.
On Tuesday the North Carolina League of Women Voters and the A. Philip Randolph Institute jointly sued the state, claiming that the North Carolina General Assembly lacked the authority to require photo ID and doing so violated the state constitution.
McCrory says the law will ensure the integrity of elections in the state.
“While some will try to make this seem to be controversial, the simple reality is that requiring voters to provide a photo ID when they vote is a common sense idea,” he said at the bill signing. “This new law brings our state in line with a healthy majority of other states throughout the country.”