State judge allows voter ID lawsuit to proceed

A Superior Court judge has refused to strike down North Carolina's voter ID law but will allow a trial on the matter to go forward this summer.

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Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — The lawsuit in state court over North Carolina's voter ID law will proceed, but a Superior Court judge refused to strike down the law out of hand.
Judge Michael Morgan made public Friday an 11-page order he authored three days ago, saying he could not make a final decision in the case based on court filings and legal pleadings alone.

Those who brought the lawsuit include the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and the A. Philip Randolph Institute of North Carolina, as well as individual plaintiffs represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and other lawyers. Morgan said that they failed to prove up front that "the requirement of a photo identification to cast an election ballot now creates anew some financial sacrifice upon a person's ability to vote."

However, he also said that the state had failed to make its case that the lawsuit should be thrown out entirely and that both sides should prepare for trial this summer.

"We're going to show how this law has a negative impact on voters of color and voters that do not have the resource to obtain an ID," Melvin Montford, executive director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute of North Carolina, said in a statement.

Although the battle over the 2013 Voter Information Verification Act, or VIVA, is complex, involving both state and federal litigation, the issues at hand in the state case boil down to whether there will be people who are unable to vote due to the voter ID requirement.

Proponents of the law have argued that they have provided for a range of acceptable IDs, including the option to obtain a free ID from the state Division of Motor Vehicles, for would-be voters.

Opponents said that, for very poor residents, even a free ID requires time off work and money spent on transportation that they can little afford.

Morgan did throw out two sets of claims made by the plaintiffs that drew on arguments that VIVA represented an unconstitutional property ownership requirement and trespassed against a guarantee of free elections. However, he said claims involving equal protection of all individuals remain alive and will be contested this July.

A federal lawsuit over similar issues as well as other provisions in the VIVA law is expected to go to trial this summer as well.

Most voters have not yet been required to present ID at the polls. The first time North Carolina's voter ID requirement is due to take hold is for the 2016 presidential primary, currently scheduled for late February of next year.

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