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NAACP sues over voter ID bill

Rosenell Eaton speaks at a NAACP news conference.
August 13, 2013 3:31:53 PM PDT
Rosenell Eaton, the 92-year-old named plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the NAACP against North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory over the state's new voter ID law said Tuesday the elections law will suppress the vote.

"We need more voting instead of less," she offered at a Tuesday news conference held by the civil rights organization.

Governor McCrory privately signed the bill on Monday. In a news release, his office dubbed it a "popular" measure based on recent polls of voters who say they support requiring voters to present identification at the polls.

But the bill goes further. It shortens early voting by a week, from 17 days to 10.  It also ends same-day registration, requiring voters to register, update their address or make any other needed changes at least 25 days ahead of an election. A high school civics program that registers tens of thousands of students to vote each year in advance of their 18th birthdays has been eliminated. A provision also would end straight-ticket voting, in place in the state since 1925.

While polls have shown voters support requiring voter ID, a new poll released Tuesday by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling found that when all the provisions of the new law are considered, 50 percent of North Carolina voters oppose it.

Click here to read the full polling results

While Republicans lawmakers who backed the measure said it was meant to prevent voter fraud, which they allege is both rampant and undetected in North Carolina. Independent voting rights groups joined Democrats and libertarians in suggesting the true goal was to suppress voter turnout, especially among traditional Democratic constituencies such as blacks, the young, the elderly and the poor.

"That is wrong, disgraceful, disgusting and [there] needs to be a change in that way that we're going," said Eaton Tuesday.

North Carolina NAACP President William Barber also criticized the Republican-led General Assembly which passed the bill despite vocal opposition at so called Moral Monday gatherings and other protests.

"This legislature, like all extremists, has overreached. They always underestimate the resolve, not just of black people, but of people of conscience," Barber offered.

The NAACP's lawsuit argues that the law violates a section of the Voting Rights Act which bans voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority groups. The suit also challenges the law under the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The American Civil Liberties Union has also filed suit.

In announcing he had signed the bill, Governor McCrory took aim at critics who he accused of using scare tactics and said were "more interested in divisive politics than ensuring that no one's vote is disenfranchised by fraudulent ballots."

"Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote," said McCrory.

North Carolina is among a number of states with GOP strongholds that have passed stricter voter identification laws, redrawn political maps fortifying Republican majorities and reduced early voting under President Barack Obama.

Such states claimed victory after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in June, effectively wiped out part of the landmark Voting Rights Act that required federal "preclearance" of election-law changes in all or parts of 15 mostly Southern states with a history of discrimination. The law was enacted during the 1960s to outlaw racial discrimination against voters.

That high court ruling cleared the way for North Carolina's Republican leadership to enact voting law changes without prior federal approval.

However, the Obama administration has signaled that it plans to take on some states over potentially discriminatory changes. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in July that the U.S. Justice Department would challenge a new voter identification law in Texas and previously suggested the department was closely watching developments in North Carolina and in other states.

Once dominated by Democratic centrists, North Carolina has drawn national attention since Republicans who took over the Legislature after the 2010 elections pushed through an ambitious conservative agenda on topics such as abortion, health care and elections.

Although North Carolina records show only a handful of documented cases of in-person voter fraud that were prosecuted in the last decade, Republicans have compared North Carolina's elections to the tainted races in Chicago in the 1960s.  Meanwhile, Democrats and other opponents predicted the changes - if implemented - would lead to long lines and chaos at the polls, as was the case in 2012 after early-voting days were cut in Florida.

Associated Press reporters Tom Foreman Jr. and Mitch Weiss contributed to this report.

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