WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A federal hearing is underway in Winston-Salem today over the state's controversial Voter Information Verification Act, commonly known as the "Voter ID" law.
U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder is hearing arguments on whether to block many of the state's voting law provisions from taking effect during the Nov. 4 general election in a case that's being closely watched across North Carolina and throughout the country.
The Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, was among the first at the courthouse this morning.
"This is the worst attempt to abridge and suppress the right to vote that we've seen since the days of Jim Crow," said Barber.
The NAACP has filed three lawsuits against the act. However, they will not be heard until next year. Barber says the suits are not only about requiring voters to have an ID, but also shortening early voting, eliminating same-day registration and doing away with pre-registration for minors.
"You identify a particular group of voters, i.e. African Americans, women and young people, who you believe may not support your extremist views," said Barber, of the state.
Barber called the state's opening argument "weak and disturbing".
"In essence what they're saying is, even if these laws are unconstitutional, because we've already started using them, we should not change," said Barber.
Supporters of the act argue that it is vital to stopping areas of fraud in our voting system.
"We really are not interested in taking away anyone's right to vote. All we're trying to do is preserve the idea of one person, one vote, one time," said Jay DeLancy, director of the Voter Integrity Project. "Anybody could walk in and just vote, and claim an identity and then leave and you'd never know who they were or where they came from."
DeLancy argued that ID's are free and you need them to exercise rights outside of voting.
"You need an ID to go visit your congressman. You need an ID to enter this very courthouse," DeLancy said outside the courthouse.
The NAACP planned a rally at Corpening Plaza starting at 5:30 p.m., calling it the first Moral March to the Polls.
Barber says the event is aimed at "rallying people to engage the right to vote, and to always be steadfast and persistent."