Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed into law Monday one of the nation’s most wide-ranging voter-identification laws, just a few weeks after the Supreme Court opened the door for such changes by striking down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act.
The move by the Republican is expected to touch off a major court battle over voting rights, and the Justice Department is weighing a challenge to the new law.
The measure requires voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls and shortens the early-voting period from 17 days to 10. It also ends preregistration for 16- and 17-year-old voters who will be 18 on Election Day and eliminates same-day registration.
Democrats and minority groups have been fighting against the changes, arguing that they represent an effort to suppress the minority and youth vote as well as reduce Democrats’ advantage in early voting. They point out that there is little documented evidence of voter fraud, the principal reason Republicans cite for the changes.
Republicans also say that shortening the window for early voting will save the state money, and they further note that while the North Carolina law makes many changes to how the state conducts its elections, most of the major proposals — specifically voter ID and ending same-day registration — bring North Carolina in line with many other states. More than three-fifths of states currently have some kind of voter-ID law, and even more do not allow same-day registration. Not all states allow in-person early voting.
‘‘While some will try to make this seem to be controversial, the simple reality is that requiring voters to provide a photo ID when they vote is a common-sense idea,’’ McCrory said in a statement. ‘‘This new law brings our state in line with a healthy majority of other states throughout the country. This common-sense safeguard is commonplace.’’
A spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association called McCrory’s move ‘‘cynical’’ and said it will come back to haunt him.
‘‘When he ran for governor, Pat McCrory pretended to be a moderate pragmatist,’’ said the spokesman, Danny Kanner. ‘‘Today, he proved that he’s just another cynical, ultraconservative ideologue intent on disenfranchising voters who might not be inclined to vote Republican.’’
While there is significant resistance to voter-ID laws on the left, polls generally show that Americans support them by large margins. Recent North Carolina polls and a Washington Post poll last year showed that nearly three-quarters of respondents support requiring voters to show a photo ID.
The Justice Department has suggested it will fight the new law. North Carolina is no longer required to obtain preclearance from the department for such changes, after the Supreme Court struck down the formula used for determining which states and jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression need preclearance.
The Justice Department also is looking to challenge a new voter-ID law in Texas and has fought such a law in Florida.
— WASHINGTON POST
US annual budget deficit on track to hit 5-year low
WASHINGTON — The government reported a $97.6 billion deficit for July on Monday but remains on track to post its lowest annual budget gap in five years.
July’s figure raises the deficit so far for the 2013 budget year to $607.4 billion, the government says. That’s 37.6 percent below the $973.8 billion deficit for the first 10 months of the 2012 budget year.
The Congressional Budget Office has forecast that the annual deficit will be $670 billion when the budget year ends Sept. 30, far below last year’s $1.09 trillion. It would mark the first year that the gap between spending and revenue has been below $1 trillion since 2008.
Steady economic growth, higher taxes, lower government spending, and increased dividends from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have helped shrink the deficit.
Still, looming budget fights in Congress are complicating the picture. When lawmakers return from their recess in September, they will need to increase the government’s borrowing limit as well as approve a spending plan for the budget year that begins Oct. 1.
Republicans want President Obama to accept deeper cuts in domestic government programs and in expensive benefit programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Obama has argued that Republicans must be willing to accept higher taxes on the highest-earning Americans.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS