U.S. appeals court blocks parts of new
North Carolina voter law
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[October 02, 2014]
CHARLOTTE N.C. (Reuters) - A U.S.
appeals court blocked parts of a new North Carolina voter law on
Wednesday, ruling just weeks ahead of the November elections that voting
restrictions considered among the harshest in the country would
disproportionately harm African-American voters.
Reversing in part a lower court decision, the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that same-day voter
registration should be restored and it reinstated provisional voting
for voters casting ballots outside of normal precincts.
"Whether the number is 30 or 30,000, surely some North Carolina
minority voters will be disproportionately adversely affected in the
upcoming election," the court ruled in a split decision.
"And once the election occurs, there can be no do-over and no
redress," it added.
North Carolina officials said they planned to appeal the 2-1
decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, noting that more than 4 million
voter guides have already been distributed with contradictory
“We are concerned that changes so close to the election may
contribute to voter confusion,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive
director of the State Board of Elections.
The state's Nov. 4 elections include a closely contested U.S. Senate
race, one of a handful nationally that could decide whether
Republicans will gain control of the chamber.
The North Carolina case is among a series of legal battles over the
racial and political impact of states' changes to election laws.
"We believe that voters won’t be confused using the same election
rules that have been in place for the last three general elections,"
said Julie Ebenstein, a staff attorney for the American Civil
Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, one of the case's
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Last year the state's Republican-led legislature shortened the
early-voting period by seven days, ended same-day registration,
banned provisional ballots cast outside the correct precinct from
being counted and ended a program allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to
preregister to vote.
Opponents argued the changes would discourage voting by
African-Americans, who typically vote Democratic and use same-day
registration and early voting at higher rates than white voters.
Lawyers for North Carolina contended that fears of lower
participation by minorities proved unfounded during the May primary.
The court upheld several challenged provisions of the law, including
the shortened early-voting period and the elimination of the
preregistration period for teenagers.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins, writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by
Cynthia Johnston, Eric Beech and Mohammad Zargham)
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