vote2As voters in the state head to the polls today, parties in the federal voting rights cases are moving forward towards a trial on the remaining voter ID challenge, according to a report filed with the court yesterday.

In late October, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder denied the state’s request to dismiss those claims on the grounds that recently enacted “reasonable impediment” provisions mooted the constitutional challenge.  Schroeder rejected that argument, saying that the law’s challengers still had remedies available to them should they establish a disproportionate impact upon African-American and Latinos.

Per yesterday’s report, the parties are proposing some limited discovery with a trial on voter ID to proceed in late January, unless the plaintiffs decide to seek a preliminary injunction — presumably to block implementation of the photo ID law during the March 2016 presidential primary and perhaps beyond.

A ruling on the remaining challenges to the state’s 2013 voting law remains pending after being tried in July and fully submitted to Schroeder in August.

Speaking of voting changes, the Brennan Center of Justice has a new report out detailing progress states have made toward electronic and digital voter registration.

As noted there, states are increasingly (albeit slowly) moving in that direction. Five years ago, the Center found that 17 states electronically registered voters, and at least 6 states allowed voters to register online. Today, 27 states have electronic registration at the DMV (some of these states also offer it at additional agencies) and 26 states have online registration.  Looking ahead, five more states have authorized online registration and three have authorized electronic registration, but have yet to implement such changes.

North Carolina took the first step in 2006 when it launched DMV registration but has not moved beyond that point.

As discussed in detail in the report, states are finding that moving to digital saves money, boosts registration and improves the accuracy of voter rolls:

  • States continue to implement modernized voting systems. A total of 38 states now have electronic registration, online registration, or both. Electronic registration is available in 27 states, and 26 states have online options. In 2010, when the Brennan Center first studied these systems in depth, 17 states electronically registered voters, and only 6 allowed citizens to sign up online. As states continue to adopt modernized techniques, they speed up the process of registering voters.
  • Modernization boosts registration rates. In one data sample, 14 of 16 states with electronic registration saw sustained or increased registration rates at DMV offices through the 2014 election. For example, since Pennsylvania eliminated paper registration at DMVs in 2005, registration rates at the DMV5 have more than quadrupled. Online registration is also popular with voters. In 11 of the 14 states that had online voter registration in 2012, online registrations accounted for more than 10 percent of all new sign-ups between 2010 and 2012.
  • Electronic and online registration increase voter roll accuracy. Election officials in almost every state interviewed reported that both electronic and online registration made their systems more accurate because staff no longer need to interpret illegible handwriting or manually enter voter information, thus reducing the chances for errors.
  • Modernized voter registration systems save money. Not all states attempted to track cost savings, but of the 29 states that reported they did, there was unanimity that electronic and online registration reduces costs. Washington State, for example, saves 25 cents with each online registration.

Read the Brennan Center’s report here.



VoteIn proceedings held this morning in the pending federal voting rights cases, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder denied the state’s request to dismiss voter ID claims, saying that the law’s challengers still had remedies available to them should they establish a disproportionate impact upon African-American and Latinos.

The decision came after the state rejected efforts by the parties challenging election law changes to resolve voter ID claims, insisting instead that the court first rule on the motion to dismiss (for more read this morning’s post here).

In that motion, defendants argued that the recently-enacted “reasonable impediment” provision, upheld by courts elsewhere, mooted the constitutional challenge to North Carolina’s voter ID requirement.

But a state court judge here had already rejected that argument in a separate voter ID case pending in Superior Court.

“North Carolina’s voter ID requirement remains an undue and unlawful burden on voters of color,” said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. “[The state] wanted the photo ID provision of the law dismissed because they don’t want the court to focus on their discriminatory intent to deny and abridge African American & Latino voters’ right to vote.”


Voting rightsAs this editorial in this morning’s Charlotte Observer explains, California has hit on a startlingly simple tactic that will both boost voting rates and shine a bright light on the actual reason conservative political leaders keep instituting new roadblocks to voting: automatic voter registration for all driver’s license holders.

The “New Motor Voter Act” will automatically register all eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew a state driver’s license. It’s the second such law in the country; Oregon goes even further by automatically registering all eligible adult citizens in the Department of Motor Vehicle’s database.

Federal law already allows for voters to choose to be registered to vote at DMVs. But as California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said: “Citizens should not be required to opt-in to their fundamental right to vote. We do not have to opt-in to other rights, such as free speech and due process.”

California officials say that 7 million additional voters will be registered because of the law. Certainly, eligibility doesn’t guarantee participation, as low voter turnout percentages across the country show. But the law does remove one barrier to voting.

The editorial goes on to say this about the politics of the change:

“All of which leads us to a somewhat delicious feature of automatic voter registration: It lays bare the reason Republicans really don’t want more people casting ballots – because those voters might vote against them.

Read More


VoteThe state court challenge to the 2013 voter ID provisions of the monster voting law is set for a hearing this morning at the Wake County Courthouse on the state’s request to dismiss the case.

That request comes on the heels of the recent amendment to the law providing that voters lacking an acceptable photo ID can still cast a ballot after signing an affidavit that states they had a reasonable impediment to obtaining one.

The state contends the amendment moots the claims that the voter ID provisions are unconstitutional.

The law’s challengers argue though that even with the amendment the right to vote is still burdened, in part because of uncertainty over how election officials statewide will implement the reasonable impediment provision — particularly in light of a possible March 2016 election.  They point to a lack of any plan to educate poll workers and other election officials on how the amendment will work and also to lawmaker statements indicating an intent to repeal the reasonable impediment provision as soon as possible. They are asking the the court to allow them to amend their complaint to challenge the amendment.

Today’s hearing will proceed even as the parties in the pending federal cases challenging the 2013 law have indicated they may be able to reach a settlement of the voter ID claims, depending upon an agreement of conditions needed by challengers to ensure voter protection.

A report to U.S. Judge Thomas B. Schroeder on the status of those negotiations is expected by September 18, 2015.

(Correction:  An earlier version of this post stated that plaintiffs in the federal cases would report to Judge Schroeder on the status of settlement negotiations over the voter ID claims early this week. That has been corrected to reflect the correct date for such a report — September 18, 2015.)


voteA unanimous panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that Texas’ voter ID law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, finding that the law had a discriminatory impact on minorities.

Election law expert Rick Hasen, who has analysis in progress here, calls the ruling on Section 2 grounds a ‘big win” for plaintiffs.

Says Hasen:

The 5th Circuit adopted the two part “vote denial” test for Section 2 claims used by the 4th and 6th circuits (which is probably the standard that the trial court in the North Carolina voter id case will apply).  Applying the test, the 5th Circuit affirmed the trial court’s finding of a Section 2 violation. It upheld the finding that the law will have a discriminatory impact on minority voters—that is, minority voters are disproportionately likely to lack one of the types of ID which are allowed under Texas law. Then, [the court] found enough evidence to sustain a finding that [the law] “produces a discriminatory result that is actionable because [it] . . . interact[s] with social and historical conditions in Texas to cause an inequality in the electoral opportunities enjoyed by African-Americans and Hispanic voters.” Particularly interesting in this analysis is the question whether Texas’s explanations for why it needed its law (antifraud, voter confidence) were tenuous. The trial court found that they were because the evidence did not support the need for voter id for either of these purposes, and this factor worked in favor of finding of a Section 2 violation.

Read the full decision here.