Lawyers from the Justice Department and a variety of civic groups appeared at an Asheville, North Carolina, federal courthouse this week, seeking an injunction that would delay portions of a state voting law from going into effect before the midterm elections this November.
At issue are a reduction in days for early voting, the elimination of same-day voter registration and a prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct. (The most controversial provision, a photo ID requirement, does not go into effect until 2016.) Now a judge will decide if those elements should be delayed or implemented at all.
Last year North Carolina's Republican Gov. Pat McCrory joined the Republican-controlled state legislature to enact some of the country's strictest voter laws.
The new laws require voters in North Carolina to have a state-issued photo identification when they head to the ballot box, shortened the early voting period and ended same-day voter registration.
Opponents say the laws' goal is disenfranchisement along racial and socioeconomic lines. Supporters say it ensures fair elections and prevents voter fraud.
Nationally, there is a broader battle about access and fairness. Judges in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arkansas have struck down new voter laws in their states. (Appeals are pending in Wisconsin and Arkansas.) Thirty-four states have laws requiring voters to show some form of identification.
One year ago, the Supreme Court eliminated a key element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, removing the Department of Justice's oversight of states when changing voting laws. Now the DOJ is contesting in court various states' newly passed laws.
Are these laws about fairness and the integrity of the vote?
Do the reforms prioritize protecting the ballot box from fraud over full voter participation?
We consulted a panel of experts for the Inside Story.