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North Carolina governor signs voting reform bill into law

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory [official website] on Monday signed [press release] a voter ID bill [HB 589; materials] into law that will require voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls. The law will effectively roll back the early voting period [CBS report] and repeal one-stop registration during early voting. The North Carolina General Assembly [official website] approved the bill [JURIST report] last month, despite criticism from Democrats who argued that the legislation would have the effect of disenfranchising many voters. Various civil rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy websites], filed lawsuits on Monday almost immediately after the controversial bill was signed into law. McCrory, however, stands in strong support of the law, stating, "Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote." The new law is set to take effect in 2016 and will allow only an in-state state driver's license, US passport or military ID as acceptable forms of ID.

North Carolina is the first state to make changes to its voting laws after June's US Supreme Court ruling, which struck down [JURIST report] Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) [Cornell LII backgrounder]. Section 5 of the VRA requires that jurisdictions with a history of preventing minority groups from voting receive preclearance from the US Department of Justice or a three-judge panel of the US District Court for the District of Columbia before they may be permitted to make any changes to their voting laws. Section 4 provided a formula for determining which jurisdictions are covered under section 5. North Carolina had previously been subject to section 5 preclearance requirements. More than 30 US states have passed some version of voter ID law [JURIST backgrounder], including 17 that require a photo ID.

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