Plaintiffs in the federal voting rights case continued to press their argument in U.S. Middle District Court Monday that the “restrictive” Voter Information Verification Act negatively impacted African-American, Hispanic and young voters. V.I.V.A was passed by the Republican-dominated legislature in 2013, and would reduce early voting days, stop same-day registration and terminate a program to preregister high school students.
The case currently being argue before Judge Thomas D. Schroeder is expected to last for the next three weeks, and may impact voting rights legislation around the country, as well as, influenced the 2016 presidential election. Last week, over three thousands demonstrators led by the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P converged on downtown Winston Salem to protest the law. “This is our Selma!” the Rev. William Barber, president the N.C. N.A.A.C.P has said about the importance of having the law overturned.
On Monday, July 20, Dr. Steven Lawson, history professor at Rutgers University, testified that he reviewed hundred of pages of reports, laws, and archival materials, and he believed that H.B. 589 was discriminatory toward African-Americans, and young people. He based his testimony on evidence from document that showed the Republican-controlled legislature deviated from the usual procedure in passing the election law. Prior to passage of VIVA, most bill concerning elections was referred to the House Judicial Committee, but Dr. Lawson said it was a “singular departure from the customary practice” after H.B. 589 was referred to the House Rules Committee.
The Supreme Court decision in Shelby v Holder dismantled the Voting Rights Act of 1965 after it ended a requirement that nine states with histories of discrimination, including North Carolina, get federal approval before altering their election laws. Shortly after Shelby was passed, N.C. State Senator Thom Goldsby, New Hanover County, said the legislature had to take a “fresh look and likely change H.B. 589”. The legislature proceeded to pass one of the most restrictive voting rights laws in the nation. Dr. Lawson indicated that the law had a discriminatory impact on minority voters.
Professor Peter Levine of Tufts University testified about the effects of the voting law on young people. Levine said that in states he studied with restrictive voting laws youth registration was restrictive. In North Carolina, Levine testified that before V.I.V.A the youth vote was about 42.6 percent, but after the law was pass it dropped to 32.3 percent. He said young people were more likely to use same day registration provisions that would be eliminated under the law. Also, the preregistration of 16 year old would be eliminated under the law which would remove approximately 150,000 young people that were currently listed on voting roles. “Preregistration was positive for young people. It is very helpful to offer 16 and 17 concrete activities to participate in,” Professor Levine said.
The trial will continues before Judge Thomas D. Schroeder for the next three weeks.