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Originally published: 2013-12-26 08:17:16
Last modified: 2013-12-26 08:18:01

Trial over voting changes

by Anna Oakes

A federal judge on Dec. 12 ruled that a lawsuit about voting law changes enacted in North Carolina this year would go to trial in 2015, according to media reports.

However, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Joi Peake also said the court would hear requests for an injunction to halt some or all of the law's provisions from taking effect until after the trial.

House Bill 589 -- which was debated and passed in the final days of the 2013 legislative session - requires photo ID to vote, shortens the early voting period from 17 days to 10 days, eliminates same-day voter registration during the early voting period, abolishes straight-party voting and ends a program that preregisters high school students to vote when they turn 18.

With respect to early voting, the law requires counties to provide the same numbers of early voting hours in future midterm and presidential elections as were provided in 2010 and 2012.

Several of the law's provisions take effect in 2014, with full implementation to take place in 2016.

The North Carolina NAACP, Advancement Project, American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed complaints against the law in U.S. District Court in August, arguing that it violates the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The U.S. Department of Justice also said it would challenge the law.

The organizations sought a trial before the 2014 midterm elections, but attorneys for the state and the DOJ requested that the trial be held in 2015 to provide more time to prepare, according to media reports.