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North Carolina lawmakers approve voter ID bill

The North Carolina General Assembly [official website] on Thursday approved a bill [HB 589; materials] that will require voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls. The legislation was approved by the state house by a vote of 73-41 after the senate approved it by a vote of 33-14. The vote was split mainly along party lines, with Republicans arguing that the measures are necessary to prevent fraud and Democrats arguing that the legislation will have the effect of disenfranchising many voters. In addition to the photo ID requirement, the bill would also shorten the early voting period from 17 days to 10 and end same-day voter registration. The measure is expected to be signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory [official website].

North Carolina becomes the first state to enact voter restrictions since the US Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) [Cornell LII backgrounder] last month. Section 5 of the VRA requires jurisdictions with a history of preventing minority groups from voting to receive preclearance from the US Department of Justice or a three-judge panel of the US District Court for the District of Columbia before making any changes to their voting laws. Section 4 provided a formula for determining which jurisdictions are covered under section 5. North Carolina had been subject to section 5 preclearance requirements. More than 30 US states have passed some kind of voter ID laws [JURIST backgrounder], including 17 others that require photo ID.

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