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Lawyers return to court to argue NC voter ID case

The photo ID requirement is perhaps the best-known provision of the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA), a sweeping overhaul of North Carolina election law signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory in August 2013. Beginning in 2016, it requires voters to show one of eight government-issued photo IDs in order to vote, or sign an affidavit stating a “reasonable impediment” prevented them from getting an ID.

Attorneys representing the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP are suing to overturn ID requirement, claiming it creates an unfair burden for poor, elderly and minority voters.

Early voting in the North Carolina presidential primaries is set to begin March 3.

VIVA on Trial: July 2015

This will not be the first time a VIVA provision has been challenged in court.

VIVA’s multiple provisions altered nearly every aspect of voting in North Carolina. The 2013 law ended same-day registration, out-of-precinct ballots, straight-ticket voting, shortened the early voting calendar and scrapped a program to pre-register 16- and 17-year olds, among other changes.

By September 2013 a trio of lawsuits seeking to overturn VIVA had been filed in federal court by the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP, the United States Department of Justice, and other civil rights groups.

A three-week trial was slated to begin July 13, 2015.

A Last-Minute Amendment and Failed Negotiations

On June 22, three weeks before the trial, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a new law relaxing the photo ID requirement. Voters lacking an ID would now have the option of signing an affidavit called a “reasonable impediment declaration.” The affidavit listed eight “reasonable impediments,” including transportation problems and work schedule conflicts.

Voters completing the reasonable impediment declaration would be offered a provisional ballot.

On June 26, Judge Schroeder agreed to exclude consideration of voter ID from the trial and ordered both sides to assess the effects of the new legislation on their claims.

The July 13 trial began as scheduled, with arguments limited to VIVA’s other provisions. Judge Schroeder has not yet ruled in that case.

A flurry of emails, conferences and status reports during August and September raised hopes that the two sides could settle the ID issue out of court, but by September 29 negotiations stalled. Defense attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Judge Schroeder denied that motion in an October 23 hearing. On November 24 attorneys for the NAACP asked for a preliminary injunction to stop the ID provision from going into effect for the presidential primaries. The judge denied that motion as well, and ordered a trial to begin January 25.

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