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SCSJ releases Supreme Court response to North Carolina’s Emergency Voting Case

SCSJ releases Supreme Court response to North Carolina’s Emergency Voting Case

Durham, NC — On Thursday, August 25, the League of Women Voters, represented by SCSJ, and other plaintiffs in State of North Carolina v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP asked the Supreme Court deny the State’s request to stay the Fourth Circuit’s July 29 decision. The appeals court ruled that North Carolina’s 2013 monster voter law was enacted with racially discriminatory intent and could not be used in any future election. In its brief, SCSJ highlighted that the state had already implemented the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, and that fact, plus the discriminatory nature of the law, meant that the Supreme Court should let that ruling stand to ensure that voters in November are not subjected to unconstitutional laws.

Seventeen days after the Fourth Circuit wrote a damning decision against North Carolina, the State filed a request to stay the decision, citing a lack of proper timing to adjust for the changes by the November elections. However, during the seventeen days between the court decision and the request for a stay, board of elections statewide considered, approved, and began publicizing early voting plans, dates, and sites. Not only has sufficient action been taken in such a short amount of time, but the State earlier in the year suggested it would be able to “comply with any order…issued by late July,” as to not avoid changing plans so late in August.

Furthermore, the State’s request dismisses the Court’s findings that the General Assembly “target[ed] African Americans with almost surgical precision” when eliminating voting opportunities in 2013. The Fourth Circuit determined that the legislature enacted voting restrictions with a discriminatory purpose, which cannot be reconciled with the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act.

“State and county election officials have now implemented the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, and any change now—particularly a change back to a discriminatory and unconstitutional election scheme—would be confusing and disenfranchising. We’re confident that the Supreme Court will see that based on our brief,” said Allison Riggs, voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

In sum, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice argued to the Supreme Court that a stay should be denied as such a decision would be a miscarriage of justice and inconsistent with this Court’s precedents to permit North Carolina’s discriminatory voting law to remain in force through the 2016 election.

 

 

Alberta Currie

Alberta Currie

Meet Alberta Currie, the lead plaintiff in SCSJ’s litigation challenging North Carolina’s strict Voter ID requirement.

Voting is a matter of pride for Alberta Currie. Since the age of 21 in 1956, she consistently has voted in every election. It was her grandmother who instilled in her the importance of never missing a voting day. But due to a voter ID provision in the state’s new Monster Voter Suppression Law, she may not be able to cast a ballot on Election Day in the coming years.

Currie, a 78-year-old native of Robeson County who now lives in Hope Mills, does not have a photo ID and cannot obtain one in North Carolina without a birth certificate. She doesn’t have a birth certificate because she was born at home to a midwife during the Jim Crow days of the segregated South.

On August 13, 2013, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court – with Currie as the lead plaintiff – challenging the new voter ID requirement of the law. The suit was filed on behalf of the N.C. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and several individual voters, including Alberta Currie.

After the case was combined with another case, North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory, arguments were made in federal court.  On July 29, 2016, the Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals found that the law was not only unconstitutional but targeted African-American voters “with almost surgical precision.” As a result of that ruling, the 2016 general election in North Carolina proceeded with two weeks of early voting, same-day voter registration, and no requirement for photo ID.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice supports the rights of all voters – particularly those like  Alberta Currie and an estimated 318,000 other North Carolinians – who may completely lose the ability to vote due to changes in voting laws. SCSJ is currently engaged in voting rights litigation in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and the District of Columbia. Litigating the current onslaught of repressive voting laws requires a team of experts, extensive travel, filing fees, and numerous other expenses in addition to regular operating costs. Your donation continues the fight for the voting rights of people like Alberta Currie. Please consider making a recurring donation to help sustain our voting rights litigation year-roundClick here to support SCSJ’s work!

Post by SCSJ Deputy Director Shoshannah Sayers

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North Carolina State Court Allows Photo ID Challenge to Proceed to Trial

This afternoon, Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan ruled that a challenge to North Carolina’s photo ID requirement for voting will proceed to trial in July 2015.  In ruling on the respective motions for judgment on the pleadings (where no evidence is allowed to be taken into account), Judge Morgan indicated that the case needed to be presented with evidence at trial this summer before ruling on the constitutionality of the law, as to Plaintiffs’ equal protection claims and unconstitutional qualification for voting claim.

“On behalf of our clients, we look forward to trying this case in July and demonstrating the disenfranchising effect of the photo ID requirement,” said Southern Coalition for Social Justice Staff Attorney George Eppsteiner.

“We’re going to show how this law has a negative impact on voters of color and voters that do not have the resources to obtain an ID,” said Melvin Montford, Executive Director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute of North Carolina.

“The League of Women Voters is pleased that we will have our day in Court in July,” said Brenda Rogers, Director of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. “As in other states, we are confident that the evidence will show how photo ID requirements actually prevent access to voting.”

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) represents plaintiffs including Alberta Currie, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the NC A. Phillip Randolph Institute, and other individual plaintiffs in this litigation.  Pressly Millen of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice also represents Ms. Currie and other individual plaintiffs.

 

NC Voter ID Challenge

Judge to take several weeks to rule on NC voter ID challenge

— A Wake County judge plans to take two to three weeks to decide whether a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s voter ID law should be dismissed or proceed to trial this summer.

Mike Morgan, a Wake County Superior Court judge, briefed attorneys Friday after listening to several hours of arguments for and against the dismissal request.

The case is rooted in an overhaul of North Carolina election law that was adopted by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2013.

Under the sweeping changes, which are also being challenged in federal court, voters going to the polls in 2016 will have to show one of seven forms of photo identification to cast a ballot.

The League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and five female voters argue that lawmakers overstepped the bounds of the state Constitution when they added the ID requirement.

Attorneys for the state lawmakers countered that registered voters without one of the seven acceptable IDs are not shut out completely from voting.

Alec Peters, a special deputy attorney general in the N.C. Attorney General’s office, said the law still allows voters to cast a mail-in absentee ballot without an ID.

“As long as someone has the ability to vote by ballot, their right to vote has not been affected, infringed on,” Peters said. “They may not be able to go to the polls to vote, but they will not be denied the right to vote.”

Press Millen, an attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Raleigh, along with lawyers from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, countered that the first article of the state Constitution governs voter qualifications. That article was adopted in 1868 when North Carolina was under military rule in the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.

The qualifications set out there are minimal, Millen said. They are that a person be at least 18, a North Carolina resident and not a felon, unless rights of citizenship have been restored.

The North Carolina Constitution, Millen said, explicitly allows the General Assembly to “enact general laws governing the registration of voters,” and over the past 147 years pages and pages of laws related to that topic have been added to the General Statutes.

In contrast, he said, lawmakers cannot change voter qualifications without North Carolina voters, themselves, weighing in on the matter.

At issue in the Wake County courtroom Friday was whether requiring IDs at the poll should be considered a “qualification” for voting or an extension of the registration process, which lawmakers have the authority to tweak.

“We have a Constitution that says every qualified voter can vote,” Millen argued. “Then we have this new statute that says, ‘Oh, you have to do this other thing.’ ”

Millen said that if North Carolina is going to have a requirement that distinguishes which IDs are acceptable, then such a change to election law must be approved by voters as an amendment to the state Constitution.

Peters and Thomas A. Farr, an attorney with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart in Raleigh, argued that an ID requirement is no different from what voters do now – attest to poll workers that they are who they say they are by stating their name and address, then signing a form before being handed a ballot.

Republican lawmakers pushed for the requirement, contending that it would prevent voter fraud and build confidence in election results. But few cases of voter fraud have been prosecuted.

The NAACP and others who have sued the state at the federal level say the voter ID requirements are essentially unconstitutional poll taxes. They argue that many voters, often poor and minorities, don’t have the necessary documents or money to get photo IDs.

The challengers in Wake County court offered details about a voter they represented who did not have a birth certificate and was not born in a hospital. She has spent at least $100 and tried for almost a year to get one of the seven acceptable IDs, but she has been unsuccessful.

Farr argued that the state Division of Motor Vehicles would go to great lengths to try to verify someone’s identity for a state-issued card.

“They say they don’t have the documents, but they don’t say they can’t get them,” Farr said of the challengers.

George Eppsteiner, an attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, argued that forcing voters to present IDs would keep otherwise qualified voters from casting ballots at polling places.

“Maybe now that they have to get one to vote, they’ll figure out how to get one,” Farr said.

The state and federal cases are scheduled for trial in July.

Morgan ruled against changing the trial schedule for the case in his courtroom, but he said he would reconsider if firmer dates for the federal trial presented timing issues.

Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1

This press clipping, Judge to take several weeks to rue on NC voter id challenge, originally appeared here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/01/30/4517593_judge-hears-arguments-in-nc-voter.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy
voter id

The Fight Over Voter ID In NC Heads To State Court

A group that’s challenging North Carolina’s voting overhaul in federal court will take a different argument to state court Friday. The League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs are asking a judge in Raleigh to toss out a photo voter ID requirement that starts next year.

Alberta Currie has turned out for election after election in North Carolina since the 1950s. But she doesn’t have a photo ID and worries she doesn’t have the right documents to get one.

Currie is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit over the upcoming photo ID requirement. Attorney George Eppsteiner (of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice) represents her, the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs.

“The North Carolina constitution specifically describes what the requirements for voting are,” he says, “and it specifically says there cannot be additional requirements on the right to vote that are outside the state constitution.”

The League of Women Voters is also involved in a federal lawsuit over the ID requirement and other changes Republican lawmakers passed in 2013, like cutting early voting and getting rid of same-day registration.

Eppsteiner said regardless of what happens in that case, a state judge could rule on this case.

“We argue that the North Carolina constitution provides greater protections on the right to vote, and therefore this case is in state court,” he said.

Lawyers for the state have moved to have this case dismissed.

Josh Lawson is a spokesman for the North Carolina Board of Elections. He said the state constitution does say that people have to possess certain qualifications to vote.

“The article then goes on to include an empowerment for the legislature to make rules relating to the registration of individuals to vote,” he said.

It’ll be up to Judge Michael Morgan in Raleigh to decide if requiring a photo ID fits into that power.

Judge Morgan could rule after the hearing or let the lawsuit go to trial this summer. That’s also when the federal lawsuit is scheduled for trial.

This press clipping, The Fight Over Voter ID In NC Heads To State Court, originally appeared at WFAE.org on January 29, 2015.

voter ID laws

Critics of NC’s voter ID law to present their case in court

— Whether N.C. voters will have to show a photo ID in 2016 will depend on whether opponents can show why they shouldn’t have to.

That test begins Friday when critics of the 2013 election law overhaul argue that the ID requirement violates the North Carolina Constitution.

North Carolina residents and voting-rights organizations challenging the state’s voter ID requirement contend that voters, not lawmakers, hold the power to make such a change to election law. Voters, they say, would have to approve an amendment to the state Constitution.

In a hearing scheduled to take place in Wake County court on Friday, attorneys for the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and five female voters plan to argue that lawmakers overstepped the bounds of the state Constitution when they overhauled election laws in 2013.

Friday’s hearing focuses on the voter ID requirement scheduled to go into effect in 2016.

Voters will be required to show one of seven photo identification cards included on a list of acceptable IDs, according to the legislation. State-issued student ID cards are not on the list.

The NAACP and others who have sued the state asking for the 2013 election overhaul to be declared unconstitutional have pursued legal challenges on two tracks.

Arguments against

The challengers have filed lawsuits in federal court arguing the changes made in 2013 discriminate against African-Americans, Latinos and voters younger than 25.

North Carolina lawmakers who support the changes say voter IDs are needed to prevent election fraud. But there have been few cases of voter fraud.

A trial in federal court is scheduled for July.

While that case makes its way through the federal system, Press Millen, an attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Raleigh, and lawyers from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice will test different arguments in state court.

Millen contends that the first article of the state Constitution governs voter qualifications. That article was adopted in 1868 when North Carolina was under military rule in the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.

The qualifications set out there are minimal, said Millen, who represents the challengers. They require only a residency period, registration and that a person not be a felon, unless the rights of citizenship have been restored.

The North Carolina Constitution, Millen said, “explicitly allows the General Assembly to “enact general laws governing the registration of voters,” and over the past 147 years pages and pages of laws related to that topic have been added to the General Statutes.

In contrast, voter qualifications, he said, are strictly off limits.

Attorneys for the state plan to argue otherwise.

They hope to persuade Michael R. Morgan, the Wake County Superior Court judge tapped to preside over the case, to dismiss it.

Attorneys for the critics of voter ID plan to bring up several North Carolina cases – including one from 1992 and another from 1875 – in which the courts struck down laws related to qualifications for elected office.

Voter ID laws have been the subject of many court hearings across the country in recent years.

The laws date back to 1950, when South Carolina became the first state to request identification from voters at the polls. Photos, though, were not required. Any document with the name of the voter sufficed.

Recent movement to IDs

Since 2011, a dozen Republican-led states have passed strict voter ID requirements, though some have been blocked by courts.

Republicans have described the measures as needed to increase confidence in elections, but critics have described them as the modern equivalent of a poll tax, or fee for voting, designed to suppress turnout by Democratic voters.

Critics claim the ID requirements weigh more heavily on specific classes of voters – people of color, students, low-income voters and the elderly.

A 2013 study by the state Board of Elections found that several hundred thousand registered voters lacked photo IDs. The study attempted to match North Carolina voter registration records to records at the state Division of Motor Vehicles of driver’s licenses and state-issued photo ID cards.

This press clipping originally appeared on January 29, 2015 in the Raleigh News & Observer.

Ann Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1

voter id

“We Couldn’t Eat The Birth Certificate” – the burden of Voter ID for people living in poverty

On September 3, 2014 in Texas, witnesses discussed the hardships of obtaining the state’s “free” voter ID.

According to MSNBC, “Sammie Louise Bates moved to Texas from Illinois in 2011. She wanted to vote last year, but all she had was an Illinois identification card, and under Texas’s strict voter ID law, that wasn’t acceptable. To get a Texas ID, Bates needed a birth certificate from her native Mississippi, which cost $42. That was money that Bates, whose income is around $321 a month, didn’t have.”

“I had to put $42 where it would do the most good,” Bates, who is African-American, testified Tuesday [9/3/14], the first day of the trial over Texas’s ID law. “We couldn’t eat the birth certificate.”

Not everything is bigger in Texas.

Much like North Carolina’s so-called “monster” voter suppression law (rolled out in part this year and which will require a voter to present a valid photo-ID beginning in 2016), Texas’ voter-ID law went into effect shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in its 2013 Shelby County decision. By that time, the Texas law had already been approved, but a federal judge prevented it from rolling out until protections offered by the full Voting Rights Act were eliminated and the law was allowed to go into effect.

In North Carolina, lawmakers in the General Assembly bided their time until just after the Voting Rights Act was effectively hobbled before unveiling their full voter ID bill. At a whopping 49 pages, it is one of the strictest, most comprehensive and regressive in the nation. The bill breezed through both houses in July 2013 and was signed into law by the Governor a month later. The following day the Southern Coalition for Social Justice challenged the North Carolina monster bill in both State and Federal courts. The federal case is League of Women Voters et al v. North Carolina, and the state case is Alberta Currie et al v. North Carolina.

There’s no such thing as a “free” voter-ID

The Alberta Currie case raises many of the same concerns addressed by today’s testimony in the Texas Voter ID case – how do people of limited financial means manage to jump through all of the hoops necessary to obtain even a “free” state-issued photo ID? The named plaintiff, Alberta Currie, is an example of someone who faces insurmountable barriers to obtaining a photo id. Currie is a 78-year-old native of Robeson County who now lives in Cumberland County. She doesn’t have a photo ID and cannot obtain one in North Carolina without a birth certificate. Therein lies the rub. Alberta Currie doesn’t have a birth certificate; she was born at home to a midwife and was never issued one.

No birth certificate? No problem, says the State of North Carolina: the law allows for a work-around for folks like Ms. Currie who don’t have any way to obtain one. All she has to do is have a blood relative attest to being present at her birth. But as she is in her late 70’s, Ms. Currie is running short of living relatives who can so attest. Her one remaining sister lives out of state, has dementia and is thus no longer mentally fit to do so legally.

Ms. Currie is just one example of the multitudes of North Carolina voters who may not have access to state-issued photo ID. In 2012, 318,644 registered North Carolina voters lacked DMV-issued photo IDs with names that matched those found on their voter registration cards according to data collected and posted by the State Board of Elections. A review of this data showed that North Carolina’s voting law will disproportionally burden African Americans, women, young people, and the very poor. Of the nearly 319,000 voters in North Carolina who may not have acceptable identification under the new law, the percentage of white voters exceeds that of African Americans yet African Americans are nearly twice as likely to lack eligible voter-ID in 2016.

Alberta Currie has paid taxes her entire working life, has a social security number, birth certificates for her two children born here, and has produced reliable  and convincing evidence that she is indeed who she says she is. Even if that weren’t the case, however, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves, “how many hoops a person should have to jump through to be deemed worthy to vote?”

We contend the North Carolina Constitution has already described exactly what may be required of a voter to prove they are “worthy” to cast a ballot, and that it was written to guarantee that Alberta Currie and people like her can exercise their fundamental right to vote.

Post by SCSJ Deputy Director Shoshannah Sayers and Researcher Sarah Moncelle

 

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

 

5 things more frequent than voter fraud

According to recently released results from an ongoing survey, there have been just 31 instances of in-person voter fraud since 2000. It’s official: UFO Sightings Are More Common. In an effort to highlight the absurdity inherent in voter fraud claims, we compiled this list of things that you’re more likely to see.

1. Vladimir Putin’s publicity stunts : 41*

 

2. Number of times characters say “Jack” or “Rose” in Titanic: 84 and 75, respectively**

 

3. People killed by a vending machine since 2000: 182

vm2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Number of times The Police sing “Roxanne” and “Red Light”: 49***

 

5. Cases of retained foreign objects found in patients following surgery per year: 110

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*41 is an under-count. We found no single source that consistently tracks the exact number of Vladimir Putin’s publicity stunts (there are just so, SO many) but we discovered 41 well-documented cases after a cursory search.

**For the record, they both could have fit.

***When counting lead and backup vocals together.

 

New ruling in NC voting rights case

Late on Friday, August 8th, Federal District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder issued a ruling in the lawsuit SCSJ and others are pursuing to stop the sweeping and harmful election law changes that the North Carolina General Assembly put into effect last year.  You can read the 125-page opinion here.
 
This is a partial victory for the Plaintiffs because the court denied the state’s motion to have the case dismissed outright.  The Plaintiffs are looking forward to a full trial in the summer of 2015.  However, because the court denied Plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, this ruling means North Carolina voters will face new hurdles this fall as they seek to vote in mid-term elections.
 
Our press release on the ruling is available here.