CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Town Council member Maria Palmer has joined the efforts in the North Carolina NAACP’s lawsuit against the state over election law changes made by the legislature in 2013.
The lawsuit was amended this week with new claims in addition to the original charge that the provisions of the Voter ID law target African Americans.
One of the amendments argues that the law has a disproportionate impact on Latinos as well.
“I do think that they will do what they are designed to do—to restrict voting—to disenfranchise poor people, the elderly and people of color,” said Palmer, whose name is formerly mentioned in the case complaint.
The Republican-backed Voter Identification Verification Act, signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory in August of last year, requires voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls beginning in 2016. Other provisions of the bill significantly shorten the early voting period and end same-day registration.
The NAACP filed a federal lawsuit against McCrory, the State Board of Elections, and others immediately following the passage of the law in August.
Reverend William Barber, the NAACP’s state Chapter President, alleges that lawmakers behind the Voter ID Law are trying to block the disclosure of their conversations and/or correspondence which led to the passing of the law. The NAACP legal has asked that a federal judge intervene.
“We need to see the documents that they have asked the federal judge to enable them to hide,” Barber said. “We are asking the judge to let it come to the light and be examined under the microscope of our constitution and our court system.”
The NAACP argues the Voter ID law takes North Carolina back to the time of the Jim Crow laws.
“Something I didn’t even talk to the attorneys about, but something that I thought a lot about was who is going to look at those IDs and decide if you are the person on that picture,” Palmer said.
The amended suit also challenges the provision of the law that eliminates the pre-registration of 16- and 17-year olds.
“If young people are pre-registered, they realize, ‘Oh, I have a stake in this.’ We have to start with high school. We have to start teaching good citizenship,” Palmer said. ‘That is a huge, big step, is registering to vote.”
The Advancement Project’s Senior Attorney Denise Lieberman discussed the decision to amend the lawsuit during a teleconference Thursday.
“We know one thing for sure, this law is designed and calculated to make it harder for voters of color to cast a ballot in North Carolina,” Lieberman said. “Our lawsuit argues that the law as such violates the Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution in its racially discriminatory impact.”
A trial date of July 2015 has been set.
The State of North Carolina currently faces several other state and federal lawsuits questioning the legality of the election law changes.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a suit in September of 2013 against the state of North Carolina, on the grounds that the voting law discriminates against minorities, who are historically Democrats.