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Judge to decide whether voter ID case can go forward

Posted August 24, 2015

'I voted' sticker

— A Wake County judge will have to decide whether changes enacted this summer to soften North Carolina's voter ID requirement should end a lawsuit that claims the state's voting law violates the state constitution.

Lawyers for the state and plaintiffs in the case, which include the League of Women Voters, squared off before Judge Michael Morgan Monday morning in Wake County Superior Court.

"The statute the plaintiffs are challenging is no longer the statute that is on the books," said Alec Peters, a special deputy attorney general in the North Carolina Attorney General's office.

Pointing to a loophole lawmakers created this summer for those who don't have photo identification, Peters said, "There can be no doubt it has been substantially amended in a way that has a direct impact on the plaintiffs' claims."

He argued that, if the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs wanted to continue the case, they should have to file a new lawsuit.

But lawyers for the plaintiffs said the adjustments made in June don't address their concerns and that they would be making the same arguments about the now-amended law they've been making all along.

"The amended law is not a repeal of the photo ID requirement," said Anita Earls, a lawyer and executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Earls said the voter ID requirement would still prove an impediment to voting, despite the adjustments.

Lawmakers passed the voter ID requirement in 2013 along with a broader package of election changes. As initially passed, the law contained only a handful of reasons, such as a religious objection, that someone would be able to vote if he or she did not show a photo ID.

The legislation also mapped out ways in which voters who could not afford a photo ID could get a free one from the state.

But similar laws faced challenges in other states, and in June, the North Carolina House and Senate pushed through an amendment to the voter ID requirement. It gives voters the option to sign an affidavit that says they have a "reasonable impediment" to getting a voter ID, such as not being able to track down a birth certificate or being unable to take off time to go to the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Peters argued that new loophole essentially gave everyone a way to vote.

But Earls pointed out that those signing such an affidavit would be voting provisional ballots, which would be counted only if the local board of elections found the "reasonable impediment" listed by the voter to be valid. She also pointed to months of education and outreach by the State Board of Elections that did not mention the "reasonable impediment" exception. For example, more than 3 million voters have participated in elections, she said, during which they were informed about the voter ID requirement but not the ability to opt out due to a reasonable impediment.

That material is now online the State Board of Elections' website.

Morgan asked Earls if she wasn't relying on "speculation beyond this court's control" and if there wasn't enough time to get the word out about the new loophole.

Earls insisted the case should continue, pointing to statements by voter ID hard-liners, including Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, who say they would like to repeal the reasonable impediment language.

Morgan said that it would likely take him weeks before ruling in the case.

7 Comments

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  • Matt Wood Aug 26, 2015
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    Do you have proof? Has it been reported to your BOE? Seems like something like would be all over the news, or you're blowing smoke...

  • John Lobenstein Aug 26, 2015
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    If these complainers would spend as much time, effort, and financial resources to ensuring or assisting people becoming registered and/or obtaining their ID's most if not all these pseudo problems would be eliminated.

  • Don Dickerson Aug 26, 2015
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    Here's an idea...why don't we stop making exceptions for every goofy thing under the sun? The first stoopid thing I recall hearing of this form of "fine for you, not for me" kind of deal was seat belts. All of a sudden, everyone and their Aunt Mary had to get a doctor's note excusing them from following the law. The reason most don't want to see even medically-legal marijuana here is we all know hoards of folks will immediately develop glaucoma, any form of cancer they don't have to die from, eating disorders.....or just a tight relationship with their family GP. It's time to end discrimination in enforcing the laws already on the books. That would simplify everything for everybody and take the cover away that a LOT of snakes are hiding under these days. "Religious objections" for photo ID? They should be deported for even thinking that should fly, and we should be whipped for allowing it to ever fly.

  • Robert Fotch Jr Aug 25, 2015
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    Roy I hear ya! that will give me a good reason to take that long ride, cross the state, and see how many voting booths I can find. someone who thinks you shouldn't have an ID to vote is one of the cheaters!

  • Roy Jones Aug 25, 2015
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    WRONG or they missed my father who has been dead for 20 years and he has early voted for the past three elections , he also receives credit card application social security packages offers he passed at age 55 Medicare information the system is broken

  • Matt Wood Aug 25, 2015
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    Except that Boards of Election use death records to purge voter rolls on a regular basis, which is why there have been very few (if any) of such cases being proven in recent years.

  • Roy Jones Aug 24, 2015
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    If the voter ID does not pass I will get a crowd from my church and ride around and vote across the county. We will get names off head stones, daily obituary to cast a vote as other do.