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NC’s federal voting rights trial in Winston-Salem wraps up with closing arguments

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- North Carolina's federal voting rights trial in Winston-Salem wrapped up with closing arguments today.

Judge Thomas Schroeder will determine whether House Bill 589, which repealed several voting provisions back in 2013, discriminates against minority voters, specifically Black and Hispanic communities.

The Plaintiffs allege Republican leaders in the General Assembly and Governor Pat McCrory intentionally reduced early voting days,  cut same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting, and eliminated preregistration programs for high school students in order to discourage minority voters from the polls.

The state of North Carolina says those changes in 2013 were intended to strengthen the integrity of elections, reduce voter fraud and cut administrative costs and burdens.

During closing arguments, the plaintiffs summarized what more than a dozen expert witnesses concluded. They say black voters in particular use those specific measures more frequently, that the Republican-controlled  legislature knew that was the case, and that lawmakers passed HB 589 to intentionally discriminate.

Judge Schroeder asked a lot of questions throughout the closing arguments. He questioned the Plaintiffs about remedy. He asked if he sided with their case, and determined the legislature violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, what would be the remedy?

"Pointing out the problems is easy. But how do I fix it?" He wondered whether returning to how the law was prior to HB 589 was the only "fix" or whether there was some in between that would provide equal opportunity to all voters.

During the defendants' closing arguments, Judge Schroeder asked about the legislature's justifications for repealing the voting measures. The judge said it seemed by all accounts early voting, same day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration were popular and well-used.

"The point is they made voting easier. Government is not supposed to make things harder. Why would you do this unless you had some other purpose in mind?"

There was time for brief rebuttal and the Judge thanked both sides for what he called professional and passionate presentations. He said his judgement would not be immediate but recognized the pressure of upcoming election deadlines.