North Carolina’s voter identification law was just struck down by a federal appeals court, who found the law to have been “passed with racially discriminatory intent.” Friday’s ruling also nullified limits put in place by the state on early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration in 2013.
The three judges who had been assigned to the case, who all happen to be Democrats, unanimously decided that the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature had violated the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act when they began requiring certain types of ID at polls three years ago.
Judge Diana Motz wrote the following on behalf of Judges James Wynn and Henry Floyd:
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 made it crystal clear that the legislation was an obvious attempt to suppress the African-American 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.
Even if the state decides to appeal the ruling to the full bench of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals or to the Supreme Court, it is unlikely the voter ID law or the other restrictions would be restored before the election in November.
In a statement released on Friday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch praised the ruling and noted that the law had been described as “one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.”
This law was passed with discriminatory intent. It targeted African-Americans ‘with almost surgical precision’ – imposing stringent ID requirements, reducing same-day registration and constraining out-of-precinct voting to place barriers between citizens and the ballot box. And it sent a message that contradicted some of the most basic principles of our democracy. The ability of Americans to have a voice in the direction of their country – to have a fair and free opportunity to help write the story of this nation – is fundamental to who we are and who we aspire to be.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder had upheld the law in April and the 4th Circuit ruling also issued a scathing rebuke of his ruling. Motz insisted that all the evidence of racial bias was there, Schroeder just didn’t connect the dots and said “the district court clearly erred” when it failed to find discriminatory intent.
“This error resulted from the court’s consideration of each piece of evidence in a vacuum, rather than engaging in the totality of the circumstances analysis required….Any individual piece of evidence can seem innocuous when viewed alone, but gains an entirely different meaning when considered in context,” Motz wrote.
This is a huge win for voting rights activists and it is also a win for voters who want to cast their ballot but are unable to obtain an ID. Republicans sure do seem to have a hard time accepting that the federal government has laws against that whole discrimination thing.
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