Voter ID trial in North Carolina

WillimaBarberThe voter I.D. trial in North Carolina got underway on Monday. This is Part II to the Voting Rights Act trial from last July, a decision in which is still pending and is likely to decided together with the voter I.D. trial.

On Tuesday, the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Moral Mondays Movement testified at trial. State NAACP president takes stand in photo ID trial:

The Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP, took the stand Tuesday on the second day of the federal trial on North Carolina’s photo ID requirement.

Barber reiterated the organization’s opposition to the photo ID requirement and, under cross-examination, defended the state NAACP’s efforts to educate people, not only about the photo ID requirement but also about options they have under the law if they don’t have a photo ID.

Barber said he wants people to comply with the law but added that he believes the law is unconstitutional. The state should not make it more burdensome for black voters to cast their ballots, especially when black people have been fighting for a long time for the right to vote, he said.

“We believe just because you can get through a hoop doesn’t mean the hoop should have been there in the first place,” Barber said.

The photo ID requirement was passed as part of sweeping state election changes that were signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on Aug. 12, 2013. The photo ID requirement took effect this year. Under the law, registered voters would have to present one of six kinds of photo ID — a North Carolina driver’s license, provisional license or learner’s permit; a special non-operators ID card; a U.S. passport; a tribal enrollment card issued by a federally or state recognized tribe; an ID card issued by another state subject to certain limitations; or a military or veterans ID card.

The state law also requires the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a special free photo ID to any registered voter who lacks one. Last June, state Republican legislators amended the law to allow voters without photo ID to sign a “reasonable impediment” declaration. Voters could say on the declaration form why they were unable to obtain a photo ID and would then be able to cast a provisional ballot that county elections officials would count once they verify the voters’ reasons.

Barber said under cross-examination that he still believes the photo ID requirement is unconstitutional. He said state elections officials have not offered clear guidance on how the reasonable impediment process would work. He said signing the reasonable impediment declaration could be intimidating because if a county elections board finds that a voter’s “reasonable impediment” is false, that voter could be prosecuted for a felony.

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Also on the stand Tuesday was Charles Stewart, a professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Stewart analyzed voter registration data from the State Board of Elections and compared them to database maintained by the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. He examined the two databases to see how many registered voters matched those people listed as having a driver’s license or other valid photo ID.

He based his analysis on data as of July 2014. Stewart said the data analysis indicated a racial disparity between blacks and whites. Blacks were twice more likely to lack a photo ID, he said. Stewart also testified that, based on demographic data, blacks tended to live in places where there were lower levels of median income, education and transportation. That meant, he said, that blacks who didn’t have photo ID faced more obstacles in getting one.

That racial disparity persisted even when taking into account that state Republican legislators amended the photo ID requirement in June 2015, Stewart said.

Stewart said that after accounting for newly available data and the amended photo ID requirement, 5.7 percent of all registered black voters did not match with the DMV’s database, as opposed to 2.5 percent of whites.

On Wednesday, deposition testimony from witnesses was entered into the record. Witness: Cultural differences cause voter ID headaches – Winston-Salem Journal: Elections:

Maria del Carmen Sanchez was told she couldn’t renew her driver’s license because the name didn’t match the one on her U.S. passport.

Then state officials offered this solution: Get a divorce, she said in a videotaped deposition played Wednesday during the federal trial on North Carolina’s photo ID requirement.

It took a week before Sanchez was finally told she could simply fill out a name change form to get her driver’s license. But based on that experience, Sanchez said she thinks many Hispanics will face similar problems when they try to obtain a photo ID to vote in this year’s election.

The photo ID requirement, which became law in 2013, didn’t take effect until this year.

Her testimony — on a deposition videotaped May 5, 2015 — came on the third day of what is expected to be a weeklong trial in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem. Sanchez’s experience fit into a larger argument that attorneys for the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice are making about the burdens on blacks and Hispanics caused by the photo ID requirement.

* * *

Maria del Carmen Sanchez was told she couldn’t renew her driver’s license because the name didn’t match the one on her U.S. passport.

Then state officials offered this solution: Get a divorce, she said in a videotaped deposition played Wednesday during the federal trial on North Carolina’s photo ID requirement.

It took a week before Sanchez was finally told she could simply fill out a name change form to get her driver’s license. But based on that experience, Sanchez said she thinks many Hispanics will face similar problems when they try to obtain a photo ID to vote in this year’s election.

The photo ID requirement, which became law in 2013, didn’t take effect until this year.

Her testimony — on a deposition videotaped May 5, 2015 — came on the third day of what is expected to be a weeklong trial in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem. Sanchez’s experience fit into a larger argument that attorneys for the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice are making about the burdens on blacks and Hispanics caused by the photo ID requirement.

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Kennedy said that many of the center’s clients would feel intimidated by [the reasonable impediment declaration form.] She said she was particularly concerned with a section that says voters could face a felony charge if they put false information on the form.

Kennedy said clients of the Interactive Resource Center would list the center’s address as a residential address. The address would be shown as a commercial address, she said.

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Lorraine Minnite, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, testified Wednesday morning that preventing voter fraud and restoring public confidence in the elections system were not valid reasons for the photo ID requirement.

She said that in-person voter fraud is rare. Between 2000 and 2014, the State Board of Elections only referred two cases of in-person voter fraud to county prosecutors.

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Minnite said that in-person voter fraud is rare because it is an extremely irrational act that is incredibly risky. Besides, she said, if someone is that determined to commit fraud, there’s nothing stopping that person from also using a fake photo ID.

On Thursday, evidence that two state Republican legislators said in emails that an amendment to the photo ID requirement was passed as a tactical move in reaction to the pending Voting Rights Act litigation was heard, but not considered by the judge. Emails show that photo ID law amended because of pending litigation, plaintiffs’ attorneys argue:

The emails were sent out June 19, the day after state Republican legislators pushed through the amendment to the photo ID requirement, former state Rep. Rick Glazier, a Democrat from Cumberland who resigned from office last August, testified. The photo ID requirement was initially passed in 2013 as part of sweeping election changes. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the legislation, known as the Voter Information Verification Act, into law. In addition to the photo ID requirement, the law also eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced the days of early voting from 17 to 10, got rid of pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and prohibited county elections officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the wrong precinct but right county.

The amendment was signed into law just a few weeks before a federal trial on the state elections law was set to begin. James Johnson, president of NC FIRE, an organization advocating for immigration reform, and others accused state Republican legislators of gutting the photo ID requirement, Glazier said.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs introduced a series of emails sent out on June 19. Republican state Reps. Chuck McGrady and Chris Whitmire were responding to criticism from Johnson and others. In the emails, McGrady and Whitmire wrote that the amendment was an effort to ensure that the photo ID requirement would be upheld as constitutional.

U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder ultimately decided that he would not consider the emails when he makes his decision.

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Michael Glick, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, called Kim Strach, the state’s elections director, to the stand Thursday and asked a series of sharp questions about the state’s efforts to educate people about the photo ID requirement and how it has been amended. Kim Strach and Phil Strach are married.

Strach acknowledged that she had not sent out a memorandum to county elections officials about how the “reasonable impediment” declaration should be interpreted or provided clear guidance for how the process will work, even though the March primary is 47 days away. Strach said there will be a statewide conference held Monday and Tuesday and after that, state elections officials plan to start providing that guidance.

Strach also said that she has not consulted with the N.C. Attorney General’s Office because she believes that the photo ID requirement and the “reasonable impediment” exception are clear.

Glick also asked Strach questions about how one voter can challenge another voter on “reasonable impediment” declaration. He argued that the process is confusing and possibly stacked against a voter who filled out a reasonable impediment. But Strach said the county board of elections is supposed to view any challenge in the best light favorable to the voter.

The trial is expected to continue for another week or so.

5 responses to “Voter ID trial in North Carolina

  1. captain*arizona

    when will democrats starting with president obama realize that stoping american citizens from voting is not just morally wrong ;but is TREASON! and the president should act accordingly. send in federal troops, those that are not needed rounding up michigan gov. snyder and his backers for murdering at least 10 people in flint with legionnaires disease and poisoning 10,000 flint children with lead!

    • Captain, this is what the courts are for. That’s why the issue of the President’s nominees to Federal Court not being allowed a vote, and Ducey’s ridiculous appointment of Goldwater Institute lawyers to the Arizona Supreme Court are important. But I’m with you on arresting Gov. Snyder and his henchmen … Once we get the goods on them.

      And we really need to get Latino voters to vote in non-Presidential elections, any thoughts on how to do that?

      • captain*arizona

        ts democrats stop running fred duval types who try to appeal to republiscum instead of latinos. Run a candidate for governor who say I will stand in front of joe arpaio and he will have to go thru me to get to you. you will be treated with the respect every american deserves. your votes will be counted your children will be treated as america’s post presses possession which they are. and NOT telling them that you have to appeal to racist republiscum so my rich white friends won’t get angry with me!