State Watch

North Carolina appeals court halts voter ID law


A North Carolina appeals court has temporarily barred the state from using its voter identification law in elections, ruling that the policy was enacted with intent to discriminate against African American voters.

The three-judge panel on the North Carolina Court of Appeals made the ruling on Tuesday, saying in its opinion that discrimination was a “primary motivating factor” for the law, The Washington Post reported. The ruling increases the likelihood that the law will not be used during the 2020 general election.

A federal court had already blocked the state from implementing a voter ID mandate during the 2020 primary elections. The law, which was approved by the Republican-led state legislature in 2018, requires voters to produce a form of identification in order to cast a ballot, a policy that critics contend disproportionately impacts minorities. The law also excludes forms of identification more commonly held by African Americans.

“Such a choice speaks more of an intention to target African American voters rather than a desire to comply with the newly created Amendment in a fair and balanced manner,” the judges wrote in their opinion. “Defendants have yet to show [the law] would have been enacted in its current form irrespective of any alleged underlying discriminatory intent.”

The judges issued a preliminary injunction that blocks the law from going into effect as a lawsuit plays out in court. If the lawsuit is still in court by November, voters will not be required to show a photo identification at the ballot box. 

“Democrats know democracy works best when we break down barriers to the ballot box,” the North Carolina Democratic Party said in a statement. “That’s why we’re glad that a second court has struck down the GOP’s discriminatory Voter ID law — and we promise to keep fighting until everyone can vote freely & fairly.”

Meanwhile, Republican state House Speaker Tim Moore has vowed to “continue to fight on [the people’s] behalf for a commonsense voter ID law,” the Post noted. 

In 2018, a voter ID question appeared on the North Carolina ballot as a constitutional amendment. Fifty-five percent of state voters supported the amendment, and the GOP-controlled state legislature overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) veto of the bill. 

The group Southern Coalition for Social Justice, led by six voters, announced a lawsuit shortly after it was confirmed that Cooper’s veto would be nullified.

North Carolina has long drawn scrutiny over its voter ID laws. The state passed a similar law in 2013, only for it to be thrown out in 2016. A federal judge said at the time that it “targeted African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

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