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Brand New N.C. Voter ID Law Already Facing Challenges



And I'm Audie Cornish.

Voting rights advocates are focusing their sights on North Carolina. The ACLU and the NAACP filed lawsuits challenging the state's new voting rules just minutes after Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill into law yesterday.

Dave DeWitt of North Carolina Public Radio reports the new law does more than merely require voters to show an ID at the polls.

DAVE DEWITT, BYLINE: The bill that would initiate the most sweeping voting reforms in the state since the civil rights era was introduced in an out-of-the-way rules committee on one of the last days of the North Carolina legislative session.

By the end of that week, the Republican-dominated legislature had passed it. And yesterday, Governor Pat McCrory signed what some feel is a law that makes it harder for traditional Democrats to vote. He says that's not true and that the law discourages voter fraud.

GOVERNOR PAT MCCRORY: Anyone who thinks there isn't fraud in North Carolina are probably the same people who don't think there's fraud in Philadelphia, or Chicago, or West Virginia, where there's been known fraud.

DEWITT: Here's a partial list of the voting changes coming to North Carolina: The number of early voting days will be cut by a week, no same-day registration, more money from anonymous donors will be allowed to potentially influence elections, and voters will have to show state-approved IDs at the polls.

MCCRORY: I think our right to vote deserves protection. And I think photo ID, which you use to board an airplane, which you use to get almost any basic government service, including food stamps, you have to use mainly your driver's license to get that.

DEWITT: The State Board of Elections estimates that a half million North Carolinians don't have a valid ID. One of them is 92-year-old Rosanelle Eaton. Because she was born at home, the name on her birth certificate isn't the same as what's on her driver's license. She says she's proud to be a plaintiff on one of the lawsuits.

ROSANELLE EATON: Because it is absolutely wrong. Everything they can do to low us down and decrease us is what they are trying to do.

DEWITT: Standing by Eaton's side, Reverend William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP said at a news conference today that the law unduly restricts African-American voters like her.

REVEREND WILLIAM BARBER: It took nearly 200 years to secure and protect the right to vote from the abridgement. And in 96 seconds, this governor gave his pitiful and untruthful rationale for undermining our rights.

DEWITT: Opponents plan to make the legal argument that the North Carolina legislators moved ahead with this law immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act earlier this summer. Allison Riggs is an attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit.

ALLISON RIGGS: They saw the room to move forward in passing laws that would be discriminatory towards black voters in North Carolina the same day we lost some of the protections of the Voting Rights Act. We think that's evidence of their intent.

DEWITT: It may be more than just advocacy groups taking North Carolina to court. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has indicated he's considering legal action.

For NPR News, I'm Dave DeWitt in Durham, North Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Feature News Editor. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.