Testimony in a challenge to North Carolina’s new voter reform law on Monday talked of the fears of minority voters — but the testimony provided little data to back up the charges.
A federal judge in Winston-Salem is being asked to halt key sections of the law, including fewer early voting days and the elimination of same-day registration, in advance of a full trial scheduled for next year.
According to news reports, in the morning session, lawyer Penda Hair spoke for the NAACP and tried to link the voter reforms to voter laws of the segregation era.
Defending the law, Senior Deputy Attorney General Alexander Peters noted (as we at Civitas have) that African-American turnout rose compared to 2010, a comparable midterm election.
In the afternoon testimony, State Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake) recalled intimidation of black voters in the 1960s.
He claimed many voters are fearful of the voting process, with some, for example, claiming that voting might cost them unemployment pay. Poll observers also have “a chilling effect” some voters, he said.
However, he was elected the state’s Speaker of the House in 1991, and is now minority leader in the State Senate. Under cross-examination, he did say the North Carolina has made great progress in race relations since the 1960s.
Testimony also came from Gloria B. Hill, a member of the Hoke County Board of Elections, and a Democratic Party precinct chair for about 10 years. She testified that some voters in her county are not well-informed and are unaware of where their polling places were.
She said some voters liked same-day registration because there was always someone friendly there to help them register.
It was not apparent whether there was less help available on regular registration days.
She did say that the county has about 30,000 voters in 14 precincts. That’s a bit more than 2,000 voters per precinct. When there were 17 early voting days, along with Election day that would amount to an average of about 120 people voting per day, our calculations show.
Also testifying was George Gilbert, retired director of the Guilford County Board of Elections. Earlier in his career he was a legislative aide to two Democratic U.S. Senators: Chris Dodd of Connecticut and John Culver of Iowa.
Indications were that his testimony would continue on Tuesday.