RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory signed the controversial election overhaul bill into law Monday afternoon.
House Bill 589 requires photo identification at the polls, changes the rules about early and same-day voting and prohibits pre-registration for teenagers.
McCrory said the bill enacted "common-sense, common-place" reforms.
“North Carolinians overwhelmingly support a common sense law that requires voters to present photo identification in order to cast a ballot. I am proud to sign this legislation into law. Common 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 statement.
Just hours after Gov. Pat McCrory signed an election overhaul bill into law, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court in Greensboro.
The ACLU, along with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, is representing the League of Women Voters North Carolina, Common Cause and other groups and individuals.
"This law is a blatant attempt to make it harder for and dissuade many North Carolinians from registering and casting a ballot. As we have seen in other states, drastic cuts to early voting hours will result in longer lines and have a disproportionate impact on our state's most marginalized citizens, especially the low-income, elderly, and disabled who rely on early voting,” said Chris Brook, legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation.
Read the lawsuit here.
N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper reiterated his opposition to the legislation.
“This bill was much more than just voter ID. There were dozens of reasons to veto this bad elections bill with its restrictions on voting, more corporate campaign money and reduced public disclosure being just a few," Cooper said in a statement.
Cooper also said the law would be costly to the state to defend in court, if a lawsuit is filed.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has threatened to bring lawsuits against more than 20 states which have changed their voting laws and North Carolina could soon be on the list.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat, sent a letter to Holder, asking him to "take swift and decisive action by using any legal mechanisms at your disposal to protect voting rights for North Carolinians."
The General Assembly passed the election overhaul bill after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. Portions of North Carolina were subject to federal review under the VRA if changes were made to election law.
But when the Court struck down the key provision, Texas passed a stringent voter ID and election overhaul bill.
The N.C. House introduced and passed a voter ID bill early in the session. It went to the Senate, where it sat in committee until after the Supreme Court decision.
Legislators crafted a 49-page bill that overhauled how North Carolina conducts its elections and passed it as the session wound down in July.
Polling showed that most North Carolinians agree with an ID requirement to vote, but this law went beyond just requiring an ID to vote.
According to Public Policy Polling , only 39 percent of voters support the election overhaul law, with 50 percent opposing it in the latest poll on the issue.
That's a change from 66 percent in support of just voter ID law, PPP reported.
"But all the other stuff lumped into the bill along with voter ID is unpopular enough to make the overall bill a loser in voters' eyes," wrote PPP's Tom Jensen.
Among the changes the law enacts:
- Starting in 2016, voters will have to present a photo ID at the polls. Acceptable forms of ID include: a North Carolina drivers license; a driver's license from another state, Washington, DC or American territory if the voter registered at least 90 days before the election; a government-issued ID card; a U.S. passport; a valid military ID card or veterans ID card, issued within eight years of date presented; a Native American tribal card, issued by a tribe recognized by the state or federal government, within eight years of date presented; voters over 70-years-old may present other acceptable forms of ID
- In 2014, local election boards will start reminding voters of the new ID requirements and tell them free IDs are available.
- In 2014, early voting will be cut back from 17 days to 10 days, but requires local election boards to offer the same hours of early voting offered in 2012. This could mean more early polling sites or extended hours at early polling sites.
- Same-day registration at early polling sites eliminated.
- Straight party voting eliminated in 2014
- Pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds eliminated.
- The leaders of the local political parties may appoint 10 at-large poll observers at each polling place, in addition to the two poll observers already allowed under state law.
- Eliminates the public election financing system.
- Raises the individual limit on campaign contribution from $4,000 to $5,000, and allows that limit to increase every two years, after 2015, based on the Consumer Price Index.
- Bans lobbyists from receiving campaign checks in any form.
- Changes the presidential primary date to earlier in the year if South Carolina holds its presidential primary before March 15. This only applies to the presidential primary. This could create a situation where North Carolina holds two primary elections in a presidential election year.