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Tisch College Experts Testified Against North Carolina Voting Restrictions

Monday, August 1, 2016

Peter Levine and Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg provided testimony on the law’s effect on young people.

A Tufts student casts her ballot

On July 29, a federal court of appeals struck down a wide-ranging North Carolina voting law that was passed in 2013, handing a coalition of civil rights group a victory in the face of a law they argued was discriminatory. Two Tisch College experts contributed expert testimony to the case.

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and other plaintiffs who argued that key provisions of the law were unconstitutional and violated the Voting Rights Act. The appeals court found that the legislature had enacted restrictions on voting with the intention – and not merely the effect – of discriminating against Black voters. Writing for the panel, Judge Diana Gribbon Motz found that the law sought to “impose cures for problems that did not exist,” and that “the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation.”

Tisch College’s Peter Levine, Associate Dean for Research, and Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Director of CIRCLE, provided expert testimony in the case, mainly related to young voters. Levine and Kawashima-Ginsberg were deposed during the proceedings, and Levine testified in federal district court. After hearing numerous witnesses during a long trial, District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder issued a 485-page ruling in April that upheld the North Carolina law, but the latest appeals court ruling reverses that decision.

Although the core issue in the decision is racial discrimination, the Appeals Court specifically noted that “preregistration” had raised turnout, and the legislature had demonstrated discriminatory intent when it rolled-back preregistration in the 2013 law.  Preregistration is a practice that allows 16- and 17-year olds “to identify themselves and indicate their intent to vote.” Levine was among the witnesses who argued in favor of preregistration, along with other policies.

“Our research has shown that state policies like preregistration and same-day registration can help to increase voting and political engagement among young people, while some restrictions – like photo identification requirements – can have the opposite effect,” said Levine. “We were pleased to have the opportunity to share our findings in this case.”

CIRCLE’s research on the effects of state policies on turnout has been published in numerous scholarly articles.