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North Carolina Appeals Court Blocks Voter ID Law Ahead of 2020 Election


A North Carolina appeals court on Tuesday blocked the state’s latest voter identification law, ruling that the requirement appeared to have been “enacted with racially discriminatory intent” and therefore likely violated the Equal Protections Clause of the North Carolina Constitution.

In a 45-page ruling penned by Judge Toby Hampson, the three-judge panel unanimously agreed the plaintiffs had met their burden of illustrating a likelihood they would win on the merits of the case, issuing an injunction on the rule until the case is fully adjudicated.

A lower state court had previously denied the plaintiffs’ request to block the latest photo ID mandate, which had been pushed by the state’s Republican lawmakers. As Law&Crime previously reported, however, a federal court in December had also stopped the law from taking effect, making it very unlikely that the injunction will be lifted before the 2020 election.

“While the future of that injunction and litigation is uncertain, enjoining the law during the litigation of this action, which the parties acknowledged would still be ongoing after these primaries, further helps prevent voter confusion leading up to the general election this fall and during the pendency of this litigation, which voter confusion has a strong potential to negatively impact voter turnout,” the ruling states.

After recounting the state’s sordid history of discriminating against minority voters, the “unusual sequence” of legislative events preceding the law, and expert opinions affirming the disparate impact the law would have on African American voters, Hampson said the plaintiffs had produced enough evidence for the court to conclude that the law was motivated by a discriminatory intent.

He also pointed out that while several forms of identification would have been acceptable at polling sites under the law, forms of ID found to be disproportionately held by minority populations in the state were excluded.

“This is especially true where the Amendment itself allows for exceptions to any voter-ID law, yet the evidence shows the General Assembly specifically left out types of IDs that African Americans disproportionately lack,” Hampson wrote. “Such a choice speaks more of an intention to target African American voters rather than a desire to comply with the newly created Amendment in a fair and balanced manner. Accordingly, we conclude, on this Record, Defendants have yet to show S.B. 824 would have been enacted in its current form irrespective of any alleged underlying discriminatory intent.”

North Carolina’s Lt. Governor Dan Forest (R) immediately took to Twitter to condemn the ruling in a series of tweets calling for the decision to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

“This ruling follows a disturbing pattern by far left judges putting their liberal ideology above the law and the will of the people of North Carolina,” Forest wrote. “We must restore the rule of law in North Carolina, and Gov. Cooper & Attorney General Stein must start by upholding their oath to our constitution and immediately appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court.”

Chief counsel for voting rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice Allison Riggs lauded the decision as “glorious and unanimous.”

Read the full decision below:

NC Voting Decision by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via David Becker/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.