On Friday [July 29] a federal appeals court blocked legislation in North Carolina that requires voters to show identification after discovering that it disproportionately affected voters of color in comparison to their white counterparts, making it more difficult for Black voters to cast their ballot.
This ruling comes as the third in only two weeks regarding voter laws, follow previous court decisions made in the states of Wisconsin and Texas.
It was a panel consisting of three judges from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia that declared the North Carolina law unconstitutional, stating that lawmakers “enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history” when voting laws were rewritten in 2013.
Supporters of the law, specifically Republican legislature within the state’s Assembly and Governor Pat McRory, stated that it was implemented to prevent voting fraud. However, the claim was dismissed.
“Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist,” said the panel.
In addition to requiring photo identification when voting, North Carolina’s bill also cut early voting days and banned same-day voter registration. It got rid of straight-ticket voting, which allows voters to choose all candidates from a single party by checking one box. It prohibited 16 and 17-year olds from pre-registration, allowed for more poll watchers, and made it easier to challenge voters and ballots.
“In North Carolina, restriction of voting mechanisms and procedures that most heavily affect African Americans will predictably redound to the benefit of one political party and to the disadvantage of the other,” wrote Judge Diana Gribbon Motz. “As the evidence in the record makes clear, that is what happened here.”
According to the court, when creating the law, the majority-Republican general assembly requested and received data on voter habits and trends based on race. What it found was that African American voters in North Carolina were more likely to vote early, use same-day voter registration and straight-ticket voting. Black voters were also disproportionately less likely to have an ID, and more likely to cast a provisional ballot and take advantage of pre-registration.
Once lawmakers restricted all of these, they went on to further narrow the list of acceptable photo indemnification, only retaining pieces of identification that white voters were more likely to have.
“We are beyond happy that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals exposed for the world to see the racist intent of the extremist element of our government in North Carolina,” said Reverend William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, “The ruling is a people’s victory, and it is a victory that sends a message to the nation.”
As of right now, North Carolina’s voting law is no longer active. With this year’s elections creeping up swiftly, its effects will only be seen come November.
As for the state of North Carolina, lawmakers and supporters have expressed their disapproval of the court’s decision.
While the state is likely to seize the opportunity to appeal the decision, a decision probably won’t come as soon as November. However, the possibility still remains for the state to request an injunction that would allow the law to continue.
“Three Democrat judges are undermining the integrity of our elections while also maligning our state,” wrote Governor McRory in a Facebook post. “We will immediately appeal their decision to strike down our voter ID law and also review other potential options.”