Republicans in North Carolina are wasting no time moving on a controversial slate of voting laws that just a week ago would have first required approval from the federal government.
The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that state Republicans have announced plans to push a voter ID law, eliminate early voting days and restrict same-day registration in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The provision mandated that changes to voting law in nine states and parts of six others, including 40 of North Carolina's 100 counties, must first receive preclearance from the Department of Justice. In their ruling, the Supreme Court decided that such a regional standard was no longer appropriate, which provided an opening for state Sen. Tom Apodaca (R), chairman of the state Senate rules committee.
From the Times:
Apodaca said the previous requirements for federal preclearance caused "legal headaches" in passing such measures as voter ID in response to legitimate concerns over voter fraud. It's time, he told reporters, to bring the Voting Rights Act "into this century, not the last century."
North Carolina's voter ID proposal was a hotly debated topic earlier this year. A report released in January showed that up to 613,000 voters, about 9.25 percent of all registered voters in North Carolina, lacked state-issued photo identification. Voting rights advocates have maintained that voter ID measures and new restrictions on early voting disproportionately affect minorities, the elderly and college students, who tend to vote Democratic. Former Gov. Bev Perdue (D) vetoed a voter ID proposal passed in 2011, but the new bill appeared to have support now that both chambers of the state legislature and the governorship were held by Republicans following the 2012 elections.
After being passed easily by the state House, the voter ID law, which would require voters to present one of several forms of state-issued photo ID starting in 2016, had been held up in the state Senate, awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court. After the court's ruling, Apodaca told WRAL that he expected an omnibus voting bill to be presented in the state Senate as early as this week. On Monday, he said Republicans were still working on the legislation, and that it would be introduced next week instead.
Similar moves are taking place in other states recently freed from Section 4 restrictions. Officials in Texas and Mississippi quickly announced plans to move forward with stalled voting laws in their states, while measures in parts of Florida and Georgia look likely to advance thanks to the ruling.