RALEIGH, N.C. – Changes to North Carolina’s voting access rules finally went to trial this week. A judge ultimately will determine whether Republican legislators illegally diminished the opportunity for minorities to participate in the political process or acted to protect election integrity.

The U.S. Justice Department, voting and civil rights groups and individuals sued soon after the General Assembly approved an elections overhaul law in summer 2013. After interim arguments reached the U.S. Supreme Court last fall, the trial began Monday and is expected to last two to three weeks addresses the crux of the allegations.

Attorneys representing those who sued contend the restrictions violate the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution by throwing up large electoral obstacles to minority voters historically subjected to racial bias and should be thrown out.

Attorneys for the state and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the law, say there’s no evidence the law will diminish the ability of black citizens to elect who they want representing them. None of the restrictions are barred by the Constitution, according to a brief previewing their case, and black voter participation increased during the 2014 elections- – when changes were first implemented — compared to the 2010 elections.

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