“Judge asks pointed questions of plaintiff’s attorney in closing arguments of federal voting rights trial”

This is key in NC voting trial:

U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder interrupted Daniel Donovan, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, several times during his two-hour closing argument, asking him pointed questions about the case.

One of Schroeder’s main questions was centered on what evidence the plaintiffs had that the law placed burdens on racial minorities. Plaintiffs have argued that blacks use same-day voter registration, early voting and out-of-precinct provisional voting at higher rates than whites and that disproportionate use is connected to socio-economic and historical conditions. For example, blacks are more likely to move and thus more likely to end up in the wrong precinct on Election Day. They also are more likely to work lower-wage jobs and might not be able to have the flexibility to get off to vote and thus may use early voting at disproportionate rates.

Schroeder asked whether these were merely conveniences and pointed out several times that other states, such as New York, don’t have many of these provisions. He said would it be a Section 2 violation if North Carolina never had these provisions at all. Would it be a Section 2 violation if they were put in place to increase access specifically to black voters, Schroeder asked.

Donovan said that would be the wrong way to look at the issue. The provisions were passed to benefit everyone but blacks use them at a disproportionate rate, and Section 2 prohibits election laws that have a disproportionately negative impact on racial minorities, he said.

Donovan also argued that it doesn’t matter what other states do because Schroeder has to base his decision on the past history and the present reality in North Carolina.

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