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Federal judge rules North Carolina voter ID law can take effect in March elections

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court of the Middle District of North Carolina [official website] on Friday declined to grant [opinion, PDF] a motion by the NAACP [advocacy website] and other plaintiffs that would have kept the state from implementing their voter identification law in the upcoming March elections. The plaintiffs filed suit [JURIST report] shortly after the law [text] was enacted in August 2013, arguing that the law discriminates against Black and Latino voters in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with a trial date set for January 25. The law requires voters to present government-issued photo ID at the polls but contains a "reasonable impediment" provision to allow some to cast their votes without ID. On Friday Judge Thomas Schroeder denied the plaintiffs' motion, finding that the state had engaged in substantial education efforts to inform the public about the requirements and that an injunction would increase confusion among voters.

Voting rights remain a controversial legal issue in the US. In May the New Hampshire Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] a 2012 law requiring voters to be state residents, not just domiciled in the state. In March the US Supreme Court [official website] denied certiorari [JURIST report] to hear challenges to Wisconsin's voter ID law. Wisconsin's Act 23, which requires residents to present photo ID to vote, was struck down by a federal district court but reinstated [JURIST report] by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Also in March Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a new law [JURIST report] that made Oregon the first state in the nation to institute automatic voter registration. A federal appeals court rejected [JURIST report] a Kansas rule that required prospective voters to show proof-of-citizenship documents before registering using a federal voter registration form in November 2014. That same month, Illinois voters approved the Illinois Right to Vote Amendment [JURIST report], which bans all voter discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or income.

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