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Civil Rights

Voting Right Trial Closes

Fifty years ago, Dr. King asked the question “How Long?”  before African Americans will gain the right to vote and have full access to citizenship.

On Thursday, August 6, it will be the 50th anniversary of Voting Rights Act, but many feel, the rights earned after the passage of the law, are being taken away by currently voter suppression legislation.

Activists have taken the voter suppression battle into a North Carolina courtroom contesting what they claimed is one of the harshest voting rights laws in the country.  The N.C. N.A.A.C.P filed suit against the state and Gov. Pat McCory after the legislature passed H.B. 589 or more commonly known as Voter Identification and Verification Act (V.I.V.A) which they said restrict many of the provisions won after the historic Voting Rights Act (V.R.A).  The law reduced early voting days, stopped same-day registration, ended out-of-precinct voting and stopped preregistration of 16-and 17 year-old high school students.  Most of these processes were used by minority voters.

Closing arguments were completed on Friday, July 31.  Plaintiff’s attorney Daniel Donovan, in final summation, argued that the overall effect of H.B. 589 put the law in direction violation of Sec. 2 of the V.R.A.  “The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Donovan said.

Judge Thomas Schroeder closely questioned Donovan posing such hypothetical to the plaintiff’s attorneys: What would be standard of remedy for 589 if I granted relief?  How would the court know if it had corrected the law?

Thomas Farr, a state attorney, said the plaintiff’s had not proved that the law is racially discriminatory, and that legislature had the right to change election laws.  H.B. 589 was passed less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v Holder where the court struck down certain pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act.

The case has garnered international attention from activists, civil rights and legal scholars who have stated that the case could set the template for changes in voting rights legislation.

Judge Schroeder is not expected to make a ruling for several weeks.

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Voting Rights trial coming to a close

Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday, July 31, in U.S. Middle District Court in the controversial voting rights trial where plaintiffs seek to overturn North Carolina’s controversial Voter Identification and Verification Act.

North Carolina N.A.A.C.P, the League of Women Voters, the A.C.L.U and others will have two hours to present their closing arguments in the three-week long trial in which they sued Gov. Pat McCrory and the state charging that V.I.V.A  discriminate against African-Americans and other minority groups.

Plaintiffs charged the law is biased against minority groups by placing several roadblocks to voting including eliminating same-day voter registration, reducing the days of early voting from 17 to 10, ending preregistration for 16 and 17 year-old and prohibited out-of-precinct provisional voting.

The state has argued during the trial that the law does not discriminate against blacks, but, strengthens the integrity of the voting process by protecting citizens against voter fraud.

It has attracted international media attention, and was closely watched by legal scholars, activists, and politicians.   Also, Dr. William Barber, president of the N.C. N.A.A.C.P and leader of the Moral Monday Movement, led three thousands demonstrators through downtown Winston-Salem to bring attention to the start of the trial.

On Thursday, the courtroom was packed with spectators who expected closing arguments, however,  the testimony of Brian Neesby, business system analysts for the State Board of Elections, was sharply questioned over his methodology used  to analyze mail failure rates between same-day voters and those of  traditional voters.   Allison Riggs, one of plaintiff’s attorneys, argued that failure rates among same-day voters were lower than traditional registrants.

Dr. Alan Lichtman, a Distinguished Professor of History at American University,  was called back to the stand to rebut much of testimony offered by Neesby.

Judge Thomas Schroeder is not expected to rule on the case for several months.

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