North Carolina Law Rekindles Voter ID Debate

The fight over a North Carolina voter ID law is attracting national attention as a possible bellwether for other similar laws across the country.

North Carolina Law Rekindles Voter ID Debate
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A North Carolina courtroom has become the latest national stage of the fight over voter ID laws, as legal arguments over that state's latest voter ID law open Monday morning. (Via Getty Images)

The law in question is House Bill 589, enacted last August, which not only requires voters to present ID, but also cuts the number of days for early voting from 17 to 10, cuts same-day voter registration, and stops county officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the right county but wrong precinct. (Via North Carolina General Assembly)

The legal challenge against the law is making headlines in part because of the way the issue is being framed by both sides, with Republicans generally lining up in support of voter ID laws and Democrats in opposition. 

Opponents of the law have called it a voting rights issue, drawing parallels with the civil rights movement and the fight against Jim Crow laws in the South. That's because they argue these voter ID laws disproportionately affect minorities, as well as the elderly and the poor. (Via The Guardian,  UNC-TV)

"These awful, awful restrictions, these voter IDs and other things have made it more difficult for Americans to vote. So we're really seeing a repetition of what happened 50 years ago." (Via MSNBC)

The law's supporters have pointed to the fact that 34 other states have passed laws that require voters to show ID, eight of which strictly require photo ID. (Via National Conference of State Legislatures)

Proponents have also pointed to a recent study by a conservative research organization that shows voter turnout in North Carolina increased in the May primaries, despite the fact that the new law doesn't go into effect until 2016. (Via The Blaze)

Plus they argue the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud, citing illegal immigration as a threat to fair elections. Opponents say cases of fraud are so rare it's something of a non-issue. (Via Fox News)

So why is the North Carolina law attracting so much attention? Well it could come down to a Supreme Court ruling last year. 

"The U.S. Supreme court has driven a stake through the heart of the most important civil rights law ever enacted: the Voting Rights Act. It was created because of a history of discrimination in certain states." (Via NBC)

After that decision last June, those nine states, including North Carolina, no longer needed federal approval before changing voting laws. (Via The New York Times

A month later, the Winston-Salem Journal reports, the North Carolina law grew from 16 pages to 57 adding a number of provisions, including that previously mentioned reduction of early voting days. 

The fight over voter ID laws is clearly a polarizing one, and the fact that these laws are decided by individual states make the issue a continuing source of media fodder. A fact highlighted by this exchange between North Carolina governor Pat McCrory, who signed the bill, and his Missouri counterpart Jay Nixon. 

​NIXON: "I don't think voting should be that hard, I think voting should be easier and we should all work to make it easier. I think part of our responsibility is that people get the opportunity to cast that constitutional– "

MCCRORY: "–and make it accurate."
NIXON: "Oh, come on." (Via CNN)

Legal arguments over the North Carolina law are expected to last four or five days, but if previous coverage is anything to go off, you can bet you'll be hearing about the issue for a lot longer than that.