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Appeals court hears NC voter suppression case

CHARLOTTE — A federal appeals court is hearing arguments in a case challenging a new North Carolina voting law that critics say will suppress minority voter turnout in November.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set Thursday for an expedited hearing in Charlotte. The court will consider whether the November elections can be held under the voting law approved by Republican lawmakers.

In early August, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder denied a motion seeking to hold the November vote under old rules, saying the groups failed to show they would suffer “irreparable harm.”

But lawyers for the North Carolina branch of the NAACP asked the appeals court to review Schroeder’s ruling.

The 2013 law is considered among the most stringent in the nation. It makes more than two dozen changes critics say will suppress turnout, including requiring voters to present government-issued photo IDs, ending same-day registration and trimming the early-voting period.

Voters also were to be told at the polls to prepare for a photo identification requirement in 2016.

The GOP-controlled state legislature, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and other supporters said the law passed last year was needed to combat in-person voter fraud, which they said is rampant in the state despite only a handful of confirmed cases in recent years.

A coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters and the state NAACP, filed three lawsuits challenging the changes. The lawsuits have since been combined into a single case.

Lawyers for the groups argued the changes are designed to suppress turnout at the polls among minorities, the elderly and college students — blocs considered more likely to vote for Democrats.

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