(CBS NEWS) -- North Carolina Gov. Patrick McCrory has signed a sweeping voting
reform bill that imposes strict photo identification requirements on the
state's 4.5 million voters, rolls back the early voting period and
repeals one-stop registration during early voting.
Almost immediately following the signing, civil rights groups filed lawsuits in federal court challenging the law.
McCrory, a Republican elected last November, called the bill - passed
by the legislature along party lines on July 25 - "a common sense law"
that is supported by 70 percent of North Carolinians polled.
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," McCrory said in a written statement. Defending the law
in an on camera statement posted to YouTube, he criticized opponents' "from the extreme left" for using "scare tactics."
McCrory referred to the law as a "safeguard" against voter fraud, there
is scarce evidence of it in North Carolina. The state's Board of
Elections has referred only two cases of alleged voter impersonation
fraud since 2004 to prosecutors.
The governor, like the
state legislature sponsors before him, noted that 34 states now require
some form of ID to vote. North Carolina would be the 20th state to
require a photo ID, while 14 states require or request voters to present
some other form of identification.
North Carolina is one
of 13 states to adopt photo voter ID since the 2010 elections, and all
but one of them was controlled by a Republican governor and Republican
legislature or a Republican legislature that overrode a Democratic
governor's veto of the law.
Democrats have opposed the
laws, which they describe as an attempt to suppress the votes of groups
that lean Democratic and are the most likely not to possess adequate ID:
Young voters, blacks and Hispanics.
North Carolina is the first state to make changes to its voting laws after June's Supreme Court ruling
found the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outdated. The ruling limited the
Justice Department's power to block those changes in states that had a
history of discrimination.
Two other Southern states,
Virginia and Arkansas, were the most recent to adopt photo voter ID
laws, earlier this year. Four other southern states that were caught up
in Justice Department review or litigation -- Alabama, Mississippi,
Texas and South Carolina -- announced immediately following the Supreme
Court decision that their voter photo ID laws would take effect
North Carolina law, to take effect in 2016, would allow only an
in-state state driver's license, a U.S. passport or military ID as
acceptable identification. Residents who don't drive could obtain a
state-issued ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles for free. Some
residents say obtaining the documents required to get an ID, such as a
birth certificate, is neither free nor easy.
Eaton, a 92-year-old black woman from Louisburg, N.C., and registered to
vote since the 1940s, is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed Monday
in the Middle District of North Carolina by the NAACP and the
"Mrs. Eaton, who was born at home,
has a current North Carolina driver's license, but the name on her
certified birth certificate does not match the name on her driver's
license or the name on her voter registration card," the lawsuit said.
"Mrs. Eaton will incur substantial time and expense to correct her
identification documents to match her voter registration record in order
to meet the new requirements."
The lawsuit seeks relief
under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting procedures
that discriminate on the basis of race, and under the 14th and 15th
amendments of the Constitution. The recent Supreme Court ruling limited
reviews under formulas in Sections 4 and 5 of the VRA.
the ID requirements, the new North Carolina law reduces the number of
days for early voting from 17 to 10, even though 61 percent of state
voters cast ballots early in 2012. McCrory said the law calls for the
total early voting hours to remain the same by asking county board of
elections to increase the number of early voting sites and hours open
In 2012 in North Carolina, Democrats cast 47
percent of the early votes and Republicans cast 32 percent, according to
a CBS News analysis.
Calling the reforms discriminatory,
the Advancement Project said 70 percent of black North Carolinians who
voted did so during early voting in 2012.
comprise one fourth of the state population, a third of the state's
voters who currently lack a state-issued ID are black, according to an
analysis of voter rolls and the DMV database by the North Carolina Board
About 100,000 North Carolinians registered
to vote and voted during the early voting period in both 2008 and 2012.
The new law would repeal that "same day registration" option, which is
proven to increase voter turnout in the handful of states that have it,
such as Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Penda Hair, co-director
of the Advancement Project, said, "Governor McCrory has transformed
North Carolina from a state with one of the nation's most progressive
voting systems, where we saw some of the highest voter turnout rates of
the last two presidential elections, into a state with the most
draconian policies we've seen in decades, policies that harken back to
the days of Jim Crow."
In a second lawsuit, also filed
Monday in North Carolina federal court, in Greensboro, the ACLU and the
Southern Coalition for Social Justice, with the League of Women Voters,
the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Common Cause North Carolina, and the
Unifour Onestop Collaborative, sued Governor McCrory and state officials
over the reduction in early voting days and elimination of same day
registration as having a disproportionate adverse impact on black
The complaint, on behalf of three black voters
and two white voters, also opposed the law's provision to void
provisional ballots cast by voters in the incorrect precinct, even a
voter's picks for governor and president. Around 7,500 North Carolina
voters cast such "out of precinct" provisional ballots in 2012, which
would not be counted under the new law.
huge part of early voting will cut off voting opportunities for hundreds
of thousands of citizens. It will turn Election Day into a mess,
shoving more voters into even longer lines," said Dale Ho, director of
the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. "Florida similarly eliminated a week
of early voting before the 2012 election, and we all know how that
turned out - voters standing in line for hours, some having to wait
until after the President's acceptance speech to finally vote, and
hundreds of thousands giving up in frustration. Those burdens fell
disproportionately on African-American voters, and the same thing will
happen in North Carolina. We should be making it easier for people to
vote, not harder."