Court strikes down North Carolina voter ID law as racially biased

A panel of state judges in North Carolina struck down a voter ID law Friday, saying the law made it more difficult for Black voters to cast ballots.

The judges said in their 211-page ruling that while the motivations behind the GOP-supported law were fueled largely by partisan considerations and not racial animus, the fact that they targeted Black voters still made the law discriminatory.

“In reaching this conclusion, we do not find that any member of the General Assembly who voted in favor of [the law] harbors any racial animus or hatred towards African American voters, but rather ... that the Republican majority ‘target[ed] voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party. Even if done for partisan ends, that constitute[s] racial discrimination,’” the judges ruled. 

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The law to implement a photo voter ID was instituted in 2018 after a ballot referendum for a constitutional amendment was passed. 

The ruling from the panel of three Superior Court judges from across the state is now expected to head to a state appeals court. 

The ongoing lawsuit, which is one of three surrounding the law, increases the odds that the voter ID law will not be done winding its way through the court process by the midterms, making the law unenforceable next year.

Republicans in North Carolina and across the country have touted the need for voter ID laws to prevent fraud, which remains exceedingly rare in elections. Those calls have only amplified as former President TrumpDonald TrumpHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased MORE ramps up baseless claims that voting irregularities cost him reelection in 2020.

Democrats have fired back that the attempts target voters of color and reek of voter suppression. 

A federal appeals court shot down parts of a 2013 North Carolina law that had similar provisions as the 2018 law, saying the earlier gambit had been written in with “almost surgical precision” to target Black voters. Plaintiffs in the case over the 2018 law said it would have a similar impact as the earlier legislation.

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Defenders of the 2018 law disagreed, noting that the types of admissible identifications extended to include college and government IDs. However, two judges on the three-person panel disagreed, saying other efforts could have implemented the referendum.

“Other, less restrictive voter ID laws would have sufficed to achieve the legitimate nonracial purposes of implementing the constitutional amendment requiring voter ID, deterring fraud, or enhancing voter confidence,” the judges ruled. 

Judge Nathaniel Poovey wrote in a dissenting opinion that the evidence “does not suggest our legislature enacted this law with a racially discriminatory intent.”