RALEIGH — North Carolina’s November election can be held under a new voting law drafted last year by Republican lawmakers, a federal judge ruled Friday. The law is considered one of the toughest in the nation.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder denied a motion seeking to hold the November vote under old rules, pending a trial scheduled for next year. A coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, are challenging more than two dozen changes to voting laws approved by the GOP-controlled state legislature in 2013.
The groups say the changes are designed to suppress turnout at the polls among minorities, the elderly and college students — blocs considered more likely to vote for Democrats.
In a weeklong hearing last month, they asked Schroder to stop implementation of the new law until a trial to determine whether the changes violate the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The law requires voters to present a government-issued photo ID, ends same-day registration, trims the period for early voting by a week and ends a popular high school civics program that encouraged students to register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays.
Supporters of the measure, including GOP lawmakers and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, said the law was needed to combat in-person voter fraud, which they said is rampant in the state despite only a handful of confirmed cases in recent years.
Schroeder wrote in his ruling that those challenging the law had failed to show they would suffer “irreparable harm” if the November election is held under the new rules.
“In the absence of the clear showing for preliminary relief required by the law, it is inappropriate for a federal court to enjoin a state law passed by duly-elected representatives,” wrote the judge, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush.
Also on Friday, Schroeder denied a motion from the state seeking to have the case dismissed, setting the stage for the trial.
The voter ID requirement included in the new law doesn’t kick in until the next presidential election in 2016. The law specifically bars elections officials from accepting college IDs, even from state-run universities.
Studies show minority and low-income voters are also more likely to lack a driver’s license and have access to secure housing, leading to more frequent changes in addresses. Under the new law, voters will no longer be allowed to cast a provisional ballot if they show up at the wrong precinct.
Thirty-four states have passed laws requiring an ID to vote. Wisconsin and Pennsylvania’s laws were struck down earlier this year by judges who said they could be a burden to voters.