State asks court to deny appeal of ruling on voting law

This news piece is in response to the request by SCSJ, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, to reverse the August 8 2014 ruling that denied a request to put North Carolina’s strict new voting laws on hold until a full trial can be held on whether the laws are permissible under the Voting Rights Act.

State asks court to deny appeal of ruling on voting law

Blocking North Carolina’s new voting law now would lead to confusion and long lines during November’s general election, state attorneys argue.

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters (represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice) and others are asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., to reverse the Aug. 8 ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder that denied their request to bar provisions of the law from going into effect for the Nov. 4 election.

Republican legislators passed the Voter Information Verification Act last year. The law’s most publicized provision requires voters to have one of seven acceptable forms of photo identification by 2016.

But other provisions take effect this year. Those include reducing early voting from 17 to 10 days, eliminating same-day voter registration and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and increasing the number of poll observers that each political party can assign during an election.

Three lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of the law and alleging that it violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A trial on those lawsuits is scheduled for July 2015.

State attorneys argue in court papers filed Tuesday that the state NAACP waited nearly two weeks after Schroeder’s decision to file its appeal on Aug. 25. By filing so late, state attorneys argue, plaintiffs ruined any chances for getting meaningful relief and that overturning Schroeder’s decision would create havoc during the Nov. 4 general election. That election features the high-profile U.S. Senate race between incumbent Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis, the speaker of the N.C. House and one of the main architects of the new law.

The plaintiffs, who include Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, have asked the 4th Circuit to expedite the matter so that oral arguments could be held Sept. 19 and that a decision could be issued in early October.

State attorneys argue in court papers that such an expedited schedule makes no sense.

“Plaintiffs’ request for expedited briefing should be denied because expediting these appeals would be pointless,” state attorneys wrote in the response. “Plaintiffs failed to act with any sense of urgency in light of the looming general election after entry of the Memorandum Opinion and Order. As a result, it is already too late to grant plaintiffs the relief that they seek.”

Attorneys for the NAACP were not immediately available Wednesday for comment.

The state attorneys also argue that it would be nearly impossible to make changes were the 4 th Circuit to overrule Schroeder’s decision. For example, the state attorneys say, same-day voter registration has been done through an application in a comprehensive computer program. But because of the new state law, that application has been disabled.

That means county election officials would have to manually process same-day voter registration and no poll workers have been trained for that, state attorneys argue.

“Manual SDR, if required, will almost surely result in increased wait times during early voting (sic) it is likely that some voters would receive incorrect ballots, and some ballots cast by ineligible voters who fail mail verification after the date for each county’s final canvass would be counted,” state attorneys wrote in court papers.

The state NAACP argues in its appeal that if the provisions of the law are allowed to take effect for November’s election, a large number of people could have their right to vote either limited or denied.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which also filed a lawsuit and sought a preliminary injunction, has not filed an appeal.

This press clipping originally appeared in the News-Record.

Posted: Thursday, September 4, 2014