Federal judge denies request to suspend NC voting law

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New voting provisions enacted by the state General Assembly, including eliminating same-day registration and out-of-state provisional voting while reducing early voting days, will remain in effect for mid-term elections scheduled for November in Tuesday.

US District Judge Thomas Schroeder denied a motion by the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs against the state, who had sought a preliminary injunction to suspend the law until the case goes to trial.

Schroeder presided over a four-day evidentiary hearing in Winston-Salem in early July that featured testimony by Guilford County Commissioner Carolyn Coleman and others.

Schroeder wrote in his order today: “Based on a careful review of the extensive record submitted by the parties and the applicable law, the court finds that at this stage of the proceedings plaintiffs and intervenors have failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on their claims that SL 2013-381’s changes as to same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional voting were implemented with intent to deny or abridge the right to vote of African-American North Carolinians or otherwise violated Section 2 of the VRA or the Constitution.

“Further, even if the court assumes, without deciding, that plaintiffs and intervenors can demonstrate a likelihood of success on their legal challenges to the remaining provisions of SL 2013-381, they have not made a clear showing that they will nevertheless suffer irreparable harm if the court does not enjoin the law before a trial of the merits can be held. The only election slated before trial is the November 2014 general election. As to SL 2013-381’s reduction of early-voting days from 17 to ten, the parties acknowledge, and history demonstrates, that turnout for the fall election will likely be significantly lower than that in presidential years. The evidence presented, in light of the law’s requirements for counties to provide the same number of aggregate voting hours as in the comparable previous election under prior law, fails to demonstrate that it is likely the state will have inadequate polling resources available to accommodate all voters for this election. The court expresses no view as to the effect of the reduction in early voting on other elections. As to the voter ID provisions, plaintiffs only challenged the ‘soft rollout,’ which the court does not find will likely cause irreparable harm, and not the photo ID requirement, as to which the court also expresses no view. In the absence of the clear showing for preliminary relief required by the law, it is inappropriate for a federal court to enjoin a state law passed by duly-elected representatives.”