Sean Trende, Senior Elections Analyst for the website RealClearPolitics, said VIVA should be viewed in the context of voting laws across the United States.
“You want to look at what’s going on, not just in North Carolina,” Trende said.
Trende is the third expert witness to testify for the Defense in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn VIVA on the grounds it unconstitutionally burdens young and minority voters.
Trende looked at four North Carolina election laws repealed or modified by VIVA: same-day registration, counting out-of-precinct ballots, pre-registration of 16-and-17-year-olds and the reduction of early voting from 17 days to 10 days.
Trende said the national median for early voting periods was 14 days. VIVA shortened North Carolina’s early voting period to 10 days — just four days short of that national median.
He said only 10 states and the District of Columbia pre-register 16-and-17-year-olds, and 31 states prohibit counting out-of-precinct ballots.
Thirty-six states don’t have any form of same-day registration, he added.
Trende created a chart showing similar participation rates for African American voters in North Carolina and Mississippi. Mississippi does not have same-day registration, early voting, pre-registration of 16-and-17-year-olds and does not count out-of-precinct ballots, he said.
“Mainstream” and the Voting Rights Act
In his cross-examination, Plaintiff’s attorney Dale Ho pointed out that eight states — Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia — do not have pre-registration of 16-and-17-year-olds, same-day registration or early voting and prohibit counting out-of-precinct ballots.
Ho asked Trende if he considered these eight states to be in the mainstream of U.S. voting laws. Trende said yes.
Ho then asked Trende if he realized all eight states had been placed under some form of federal election supervision before the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.
Trende said he didn’t know that.
Ho said Trende’s own statistics showed North Carolina had the highest participation rate for African American voters of all the states he studied during the period stretching from 2000 to 2012 — before VIVA rolled back the provisions.
And a majority of states have at least two of the repealed provisions, Ho said.
Defense Attorney Thomas Farr asked Trende to discuss a chart comparing African American voter participation rates nationwide with North Carolina’s rates. This chart showed the greatest increase in North Carolina’s participation rates came before the implementation of same-day registration and early voting, Trende said.
The Defense team expects to rest their case Wednesday. Closing arguments are set for Thursday morning.