Court Rules North Carolina Voter ID Law Discriminatory

| by Ray Brown
Voters cast their ballots in voting boothsVoters cast their ballots in voting booths

A federal appeals court struck down a state voter ID law passed by North Carolina Republicans, citing that the law was passed with racially discriminatory intent.

"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, reported Politico.

"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," Motz continued. "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 was clear in its belief that the law was written with racist and discriminatory intentions.

"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 case will now be sent back to U.S. District judge Thomas Schroeder, who previously dismissed challenges made against the law, but ultimately prevailed in the higher court, reported the Charlotte Observer.

“This ruling is a stinging rebuke of the state’s attempt to undermine African-American voter participation, which had surged over the last decade,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “It is a major victory for North Carolina voters and for voting rights.”

The law in question was written in 2013, shortly after the Supreme Court struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required states to receive federal approval before changing their elections laws, according to The New York Times.

After the ruling, some states took advantage by writing changes to their election laws. Those changes resulted in a slew of new voter identification laws, including North Carolina's, which have been criticized as affecting mostly poor and minority voters.

"The U.S. Justice Department, the state NAACP and other advocacy groups have been fighting the changes ever since," NPR's Pam Fessler said. "They say the law discriminates against minorities and is unconstitutional. Among other things, it requires voters to show a photo ID, unless they swear they faced a 'reasonable impediment' trying to get one." 

Sources: Charlotte Observer, Politico, The New York Times, NPR / Photo Credit: Alex Lee/Wikimedia Commons

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