Restrictive Voter ID Law Heads to Federal Trial in North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 21, 2016
Contact: Victoria Wenger
Email: vwenger@advancementproject.org

 

Restrictive Voter ID Law Heads to Federal Trial in North Carolina

NC NAACP Continues Legal Challenge to Monster Voter Suppression Law in Jan. 25 Trial

 

WINSTON-SALEM – A legal challenge to North Carolina’s restrictive voter ID will begin on Monday, Jan. 25, with attorneys presenting evidence of the law’s burdens on voters of color in North Carolina. Advancement Project, along with co-counsel Kirkland & Ellis, LLP and North Carolina lawyers Irving Joyner and Adam Stein, represent the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and individual plaintiffs in their efforts to topple the regressive law.

“The right to vote is supposed to be constitutional, not confusing,” said NC NAACP President the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II. “North Carolina’s restrictive photo ID law remains an immoral and unconstitutional burden on voters that creates two unequal tiers of voters. We are prepared to challenge this modern form of Jim Crow in the courts even as we continue our grassroots work. This is the only way to ensure elections in North Carolina remain free, fair and accessible to all people. It’s also a moral mandate.”

North Carolina’s voter ID requirement is one of the many provisions of the state’s 2013 massive voter suppression law, H.B. 589. Knowing the restrictive ID requirement would not hold up to legal challenge, the legislature passed a modification to the law just weeks before the July 2015 trial challenging various provisions of H.B. 589. The trial proceeded regarding the law’s other provisions, including the shortening of the early voting period, the elimination of same-day registration, the elimination of ballots cast out of precinct from being counted, and the elimination of a successful pre-registration program for 16- and 17-year olds. The challenge to the photo ID requirement, however, was postponed to allow further review of the modified law. The ID trial now set for Jan. 25 is expected to last 4-7 days and will feature testimony from a range of experts and impacted voters.

“Despite an amendment passed to disguise the discriminatory intent behind North Carolina’s voter ID law, the impact on voters of color remains clear,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair. “As long as the photo ID requirement is on the books, there will be a chilling effect for Black and Brown voters, who disproportionately lack the necessary forms of ID.”

The stories of Rosanell Eaton and Maria Del Carmen Sanchez illustrate some of the burdens of the ID requirement. After overcoming a literacy test to vote in the peak of the Jim Crow era, Ms. Eaton, now 94 years old, was forced again to overcome incredible burdens to access the ballot. Despite being a valid registered voter and voting for more than 70 years, she was forced to make ten trips to the DMV and other state offices, drive more than 200 miles and spend more than 20 hours last year in order to obtain a valid voter ID due to disparities in how her name was spelled on her various forms of identification. Maria Del Carmen Sanchez, whose names is portrayed differently on her identifying documents due to Latino naming conventions (that often include multiple first names and use of a mother’s surname), had to make numerous DMV visits and follow-up phone calls to get her driver’s license to match her passport. Even then, these documents still did not match the name on her voter registration.

“The amendments to North Carolina’s photo ID law do not negate its prohibited purpose or effects. Thus far, the state has failed to properly educate North Carolina’s voters on their rights to participate – with or without a photo ID – in the upcoming elections,” said Daniel Donovan, attorney with Kirkland & Ellis LLP. “Worse, by passing and continuing to defend H.B. 589 without any valid rationale – there is no evidence of in-person voter fraud in North Carolina – the state has advanced a solution in search of a problem. This is an affront to the fair and equal access to the ballot in North Carolina.”

“We will continue our fight to tumble the barriers blocking access to the ballot for North Carolina’s voters,” said Rev. Barber. “Our work will not stop until our fundamental right to vote is protected for all.”

For more information or questions regarding the legal challenge to H.B. 589, please contact Victoria Wenger at vwenger@advancementproject.org or 603-686-1647.

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Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.