Yesterday, a federal judge answered a reoccurring legal question in the state of North Carolina; whether the implementation of photographic identifications violates the constitutional rights of North Carolinian voters. The lawsuit was filed by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP against the North Carolina Governor and members of the State Board of Elections on December 20, 2018. The plaintiffs, the NAACP, allege the law will “have a disproportionately negative impact on minority voters”. The defendants, the state of North Carolina, cite 4th circuit precedent and reason the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed due to it’s similarity to these cases. The order from The US District Court judge will come next week. The judge reportedly issued an injunction, siding with the plaintiffs. The official order has not been published; for now, her reasoning is speculated.
Lawyers critical of the North Carolina State Board of Elections have argued that this law is a duplicate of the 2013 voter ID law, which was deemed unconstitutional by a US Court of Appeals panel. The 2013 law required voters to present an approved form of photo identification before casting a valid ballot, reduced the early voting period from 17 to 10 days, eliminated out-of-precinct voting, eliminated same-day registration and voting, and eliminated preregistration by 16 year olds. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2013 voter ID law targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision” (see page 11). When the case finally reached the Supreme Court of the United States, the justices refused to hear the case. Lawyers arguing against voter identification argue that this new version, the 2018 ballot approved measure, carries the same discriminatory intent as its struck down predecessor.
After the 2013 voter ID law was struck down in 2016, The North Carolina State Board of Elections created S.B. 824 in 2017. In December 2018 the voter ID bill was approved by 55 % of voters and it was signed into law by the Governor on March 14, 2019. One of expressed motivations of the state board is an interest in decreasing the chances of voter fraud. Critics have drawn attention to the fact that the state has previously been unable to identify even a single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud.
The new state law identifies several types of approved photo IDs. It allows public and private university cards to be used as identification at voting locations around the state, however, it does not allow government issued identifications linked to public assistance programs to be used; the majority of those without an approved state ID are low-income populations, which are overwhelmingly Black and Latino.
The current case, NAACP et al v. Cooper, is one of the many lawsuits challenging the 2018 ballot approved measure. The judge’s decision this Thursday, which lays precedent that will affect future cases, blocks the provisions of the 2018 measure from taking effect during the upcoming March 3, 2020 primary.
North Carolina is a critical battleground state in presidential elections.