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The Daily Tar Heel

Voter ID lawsuit hearing tentatively set for January

A federal judge refused to dismiss challenges to North Carolina’s Voter ID law during a court hearing on Friday, and set a new tentative hearing for Jan. 16.

The N.C. General Assembly passed the law two years ago, requiring voters to have photo ID when voting in-person. It would go into effect in 2016, possibly influencing the upcoming presidential primaries.

After the law passed, the North Carolina NAACP and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed claims that it would disproportionately affect African-American and Latino voters in the state.

In response to these challenges, the state offered reasonable impediment exceptions that exempt voters from having to show photo IDs. These exceptions include instances of stolen ID or lack of transportation.

The trial focused on whether these exemptions rendered the challenges moot.

“The court agreed with us that there are still issues and that we should have an opportunity to present those in court,” said Irving Joyner, a member of the legal council for the N.C. NAACP and a law professor at N.C. Central University.

Denise Lieberman, senior attorney with the Advancement Project and part of the litigation team challenging the photo ID trial, said those groups disproportionally impacted — including the elderly — face more challenges in paying for, or presenting supporting documents to receive photo IDs.

“The reasonable impediments exceptions addressed some of those issues but not all of them,” Joyner said.

He said the law had too many problems to fix.

“Legally nothing can make the bill work, because it is unconstitutional at its inception,” he said.

Susan Myrick, an election policy analyst at the right-leaning Civitas Institute, opposes the reasonable impediments exception too.

“Everybody should be treated equally and the same. If you require something of one person, you should require the very same thing for the next person in line,” Myrick said.

Proponents of the law claim photo IDs will prevent voter fraud, but Lieberman said there was no evidence of voter fraud and the state never established the existence of a legitimate harm the provision will address.

“What became abundantly clear (during the trial) is that there is not a legitimate government interest behind these restrictive voting measures,” she said.

While opponents argue there is no conclusive evidence for the presence of fraud, Myrick said presenting tangible evidence is difficult without the photo ID requirements in place.

“We know there’s voter fraud, we’ve seen the voter fraud in other states, North Carolina is no different in that,” she said.

Myrick said one of the most important processes of America’s democracy is diminished with every instance of fraud.

With the judge’s decision, both parties have until January to compile more evidence, unless new developments will render the case moot or the state forfeits the bill.

“I have watched this judge work before and he is very thorough,” Myrick said. “I don’t know how (the case is) going to turn out.”

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