Attorneys for the state filed court papers Friday opposing the request for a preliminary injunction against the state’s photo ID requirement before the March primaries.
The N.C. NAACP filed a motion for a preliminary injunction last month, arguing that allowing the photo ID requirement during the March primaries would cause “irreparable harm” to minority voters. They argue that state officials haven’t done enough to educate voters about the photo ID requirement or about changes that state Republican legislators made to the requirement in June.
State attorneys argue in court papers that state elections officials have worked hard to inform people about the photo ID requirement since the legislation was passed in 2013 as part of a sweeping election law known as the Voter Information Verification Act. Also, state elections officials have tried to inform people as well as train county elections officials about an amendment that eased the photo ID requirement, according to court papers filed by the state.
The change means that voters without a voter ID can sign a “reasonable impediment” declaration outlining why they couldn’t get a photo ID. The amendment also allows voters to present certain kinds of expired photo ID issued within the last four years. And voters can also vote by absentee ballot during the early voting period. Absentee ballots, which are mailed in, don’t require a photo ID.
State attorneys allege that the state NAACP has a “fundamentally incorrect premise” that state elections officials provided misleading and inaccurate information about the photo ID requirement, resulting in confusion.
“The State’s message about photo ID was correct then and correct now: In 2016 voters are required to present acceptable identification when voting and there are numerous exceptions to the requirement,” attorneys wrote in court papers.
State attorneys argue that plaintiffs have presented no evidence that the photo ID requirement, either in the original form or amended, places undue burdens on black and Hispanic voters. And state elections officials have updated their websites, distributed information and conducted a media campaign, all in an effort to educate voters, they said.
Granting a preliminary injunction would cause “significant and irreparable harm,” and it could cause even more voter confusion, they said.
The state’s entire elections law is under legal challenge. The law not only provided for a photo ID requirement, but also curtailed early voting from 17 days to 10, eliminated same-day voter registration and prohibited out-of-precinct voting.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder presided over a three-week trial this summer on the state’s elections law, except for photo ID. A trial on photo ID is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 25.
An attorney for the state NAACP said in a statement that the preliminary injunction is still needed.
“As we have asserted all along, we believe the photo ID law impairs the voting rights of voters in North Carolina, particularly voters of color,” said Denise Lieberman, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. “It remains our contention that the best way to protect voters in advance of the March primary elections is for the court to issue an injunction to block the photo ID requirement.”