Raleigh, N.C. — State officials responded Monday to two lawsuits filed over sweeping changes to elections laws, denying allegations that the legislation violates voters' rights.
The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, Common Cause of North Carolina and several individuals sued Gov. Pat McCrory and the State Board of Elections in August, alleging that regulations requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls, limiting early voting and ending same-day registration were designed to suppress voter turnout.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a third lawsuit, alleging that North Carolina's law is racially motivated. State officials haven't yet responded to it.
McCrory and Republican lawmakers who crafted the legislation contend that North Carolina is merely trying to combat voter fraud and ensure the integrity of its elections, and they note that many other states already have similar laws for voter ID, same-day registration and other provisions in North Carolina's law.
"I think our voting ID laws, yes, by the national media and even by some of the local media in North Carolina, have been greatly exaggerated, and it's commonsense reform that protects the integrity of our ballot box," McCrory said Monday during an appearance at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.
State NAACP President Rev. William Barber responded that data shows that the changes will disproportionately impact minority voters. He said North Carolina should be expanding access to the polls instead of repealing laws that have boosted voter turnout in recent years.
"There has not been any problems with fraud or integrity," Barber said during a conference call with reporters. "The system is not broken; they are breaking the system because they want to break the back of inclusion in our democracy."
He said "democracy is under attack," and North Carolina voters need to fight to ensure similar restrictions aren't enacted elsewhere.
The responses to the two lawsuits filed Monday simply deny every allegation made by the plaintiffs in asking that the suits be dismissed, and they but they don't offer any explanation or defense of the voting changes.
Plaintiffs' attorney Penda Hair said she is confident the courts will hear the case. She claims her side can and will prove that lawmakers intended to discriminate.
"The legislature was well aware of the impact that this law would have on African-Americans and did nothing to mitigate that impact," Hair said.
Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper will lead the state's defense of the law, despite having stated his opposition to it.
McCrory publicly criticized Cooper for that in his Heritage Foundation remarks.
"He can have his personal opinion, but as a lawyer, you should not ... publicize your personal opinion if you're going to be defending people who are promoting this commonsense law. Good lawyers don't do that," the governor said.