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The Daily Tar Heel

Voting law trial underway in Winston-Salem

The trial for N.C. NAACP v. McCrory, in which Gov. Pat McCrory and state lawmakers are facing lawsuits regarding whether or not they illegally discriminated against voters of color, began July 13.

The 2013 law eliminated a week of early voting and got rid of a program that pre-registered high school students. An earlier federal court decision temporarily blocked portions of the bill that ended same-day registration and disallowed out of precinct voting while litigation is ongoing.

The Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. chapter of the NAACP, said the law does not encourage every individual to vote.

“It is a monster voter suppression bill because it takes away from voters, particularly from African-American voters, expansions of voter access that have been used for more than four election cycles, and it was done in a racially intentional way,” Barber said.

Barber said the initial filing of the bill — on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination — helped to spark the start of the Moral Monday movement.

“By doing it on the anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination ... it’s much of what caused the formation of Moral Mondays and the challenging of evil with civil disobedience because this attack on voting rights is an attempt to assassinate our progress as a state, and it’s just wrong,” he said.

Jay DeLancy, a founder of the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina, said the law worked in fighting voter fraud.

“I think the laws were a good first attempt at cleaning up an electoral process that has been rigged and facilitates certain kinds of fraud over the last 100 years,” DeLancy said.

“They selectively use statistics that suggest that if someone couldn’t vote in the first seven days, they’re not going to vote, and that’s just erroneous thinking because the overall results are a greater participation rate among minority voters than among white voters.”

Votes cast by African-Americans from 2010 to 2014 rose from 541,884 to 629,417 according to the N.C. State Board of Elections.

The total number of African-American registered voters increased from 2010 to 2014 by about 150,000, while the number of African-American provisional votes decreased.

Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said the law has had an effect on elections since 2013.

“I don’t think we had the turnout in 2014 that we would’ve had normally,” Phillips said.

“North Carolina saw the most expensive U.S. Senate race in the history of the country, and yet our turnout overall was about what it was in 2010 when there was virtually no U.S. Senate race of any kind of consequence, with all the money that was spent.”

Phillips said that if the NAACP comes out on top, N.C. voters would benefit because it would make voting easier.

“We were once upon a time leading the country in providing laws that made it easier for all citizens to vote, and if they were to win this trial, that could be a strong signal that the courts, at least at this level, are agreeing these laws are unconstitutional,” Phillips said.

“What will happen, however, is that either side that loses will typically appeal it to the district court of appeals. It’ll go up; litigation will continue.”

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