Josh Gerstein, Politico, July 29, 2016
A federal appeals court has struck down North Carolina’s voter identification law, holding that it was “passed with racially discriminatory intent.”
The ruling also invalidated limits the same state law placed in 2013 on early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration.
The three judges assigned to the case–all Democratic appointees–were unanimous that the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature violated the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act three years ago by enacting the measure requiring voters to show certain types of photo ID at the polls.
“The record makes clear that the historical origin of the challenged provisions in this statute is not the innocuous back-and-forth of routine partisan struggle that the State suggests and that the district court accepted,” Judge Diana Motz wrote on behalf of Judges James Wynn and Henry Floyd. “Rather, the General Assembly enacted them in the immediate aftermath of unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with a troubled racial history and racially polarized voting. The district court clearly erred in ignoring or dismissing this historical background evidence, all of which supports a finding of discriminatory intent.”
The court’s opinion bluntly described the legislation as a clear effort to suppress the black vote.
“We cannot ignore the record evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history,” Motz added.
The state could seek to appeal the decision to the full bench of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals or to the Supreme Court, but it seems unlikely those courts will step in to restore the voter ID law and other voting-related changes in advance of the November election.