NC: Change in election laws discussed

By Jim Bradley for wsoctv.com

Posted: 6:07 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Elections officials will have to wait to find out if changes to North Carolina’s elections laws passed last year will be put on hold for November’s election.

A three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals heard arguments for and against the changes Thursday.

They’re being asked to issue an injunction temporarily stopping changes from taking effect before a trial on the issue scheduled for next summer.

In 2013, state legislators passed a law cutting early voting from 17 to 10 days, eliminating same-day registration and the ability of voters to cast ballots if they go to the wrong precinct.

A group of critics is suing the state to repeal that law and are asking the Appeals Court to put the changes on hold for the November election. “The right to vote is at stake,” said Allison Riggs, an attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

She and others are suing the state argued in court that the changes to early voting and same-day registration will hurt African Americans disproportionately.

“African Americans are 50 percent more likely to use early voting or same-day registration,” said Chris Brook with the North Carolina ACLU. “So not only is it going to harm all North Carolinians, but it’s going to harm those most marginalized persons of our state that might live in poverty. When transportation is an issue you need same-day registration, you need out-of-precinct voting.”

Attorneys defending the law said its changes apply equally to all voters and don’t impose any hardship on minorities.

Sen. Bob Rucho, who helped pass the bill in the N.C. General Assembly, told reporters outside the courthouse, “No harm will occur (to voters) and this election should move forward.”

The judges on the appeals court will decide if voters face ‘irreparable harm’ from the state’s election laws.  If they rule against the state then election rules would revert to the law in effect prior to 2013. That would extend early voting and reintroduce same-day registration and out of precinct voting. Attorneys for the state said that would be a burden for election officials and they would appeal immediately to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A decision from the Appeals Court is expected within a week.

This article originally appeared at wsoctv.com.