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Civil Rights Groups Sue in Response to NC Voter ID Bill's Changes to Early Voting


Since Governor McCrory signed the Voter ID Bill into law on Monday, three civil rights groups have filed lawsuits. They challenge new requirements for state-issued IDs, elimination of same-day registration--and an early voting period that will be shortened by seven days. Critics of the bill say the latter in particular will cut off voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians—particularly minorities. About 64 percent of New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender County citizens voted early in the 2012 election.

Of that count, nearly half voted during the first seven days of early voting. Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina, says that eliminating this weeklong period would make voting more challenging, particularly for African-Americans, the majority of whom voted early in North Carolina during the last national election.

"We need to view with great skepticism measures that make it more difficult to exercise the right to vote, and require our government to bring forth compelling reasons why measures making it more difficult to vote are necessary. And what we have seen here is that Governor McCrory and the legislature can’t come up with any reason for why they’re taking seven days off of early voting."

Earlier this week, McCrory said that all county boards of elections will be required to provide the same number of early voting hours. Allison Riggs, an attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a co-filer with the ACLU, says they also want the state to get federal approval before making changes to voting laws.

"We believe that the law was enacted with an intent to discriminate against African-American voters in North Carolina, but we also believe that the law violates the 14th Amendment, because it unjustifiably burdens the right to vote, which is a fundamental right, and so for there to be any burden on it, it has to be based on a strong state policy justification. And we don’t think there’s any valid justification for cutting those things that were cut in the bill."

While the voter ID provisions within the bill won’t go into effect until 2016, Allison Riggs says early voting restrictions would be in place by next year’s primary.