Friday July 29, 2016 – A federal appeals court has overturned North Carolina’s sweeping voter ID law, ruling that the law was passed with “discriminatory intent” and was designed to impose barriers to block African-Americans from voting.
The ruling came from a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state is “almost certain” to appeal to the full court or to the U.S. Supreme Court, NPR’s Pam Fessler reports.
The law has been controversial ever since it was enacted in 2013 — “right after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act that might have prevented the law from taking effect,” as Pam has reported.
“The U.S. Justice Department, the state NAACP and other advocacy groups have been fighting the changes ever since,” Pam says. “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.”
But it did more than just require photo IDs. Michael Tomsic of member station WFAE explained last summer that the law rolled back a series of changes that advocates say expanded African-American voter participation:
“For decades in the state, black voter turnout lagged far behind white turnout. Then, in 2000, state lawmakers opened up an early voting period. In 2005, they said voters could cast ballots outside their assigned precinct. And in 2007, they enabled same-day registration.
“After those changes, attorney Allison Riggs says, black voter registration and turnout surged.
” ‘They had their intended effect of evening the playing field in the state, and the Legislature yanked that away,’ she says.”
The 2013 law cuts early voting by a week, requires voters to vote in their assigned precinct and stops voters from registering and voting on the same day.
This April, a federal judge ruled that the law served a “legitimate state interest” and concluded there was not sufficient evidence of discriminatory intent.
That judge’s opinion was hefty — 485 pages, packed with factual findings.
The 4th Circuit wasn’t impressed.