Federal court to block North Carolina's voter ID requirement before 2020 elections

WRAL,  December 27, 2019

"A federal court said Thursday that it will, at least temporarily, block North Carolina from requiring photo ID at the polls next year.

An order explaining the decision will come next week, with the announcement timed just before a statewide mailing was planned explaining the state's ID rules. Public notice of the decision came in a short note appended to an online case file Thursday in NAACP et al v. Cooper, one of at least two ongoing lawsuits challenging voter ID in the state.


The next steps are unclear, but the decision can be appealed. The State Board of Elections had opposed this injunction, which was requested in September. Republican legislative leaders, who have defended against other election law challenges, aren't part of this case, and Biggs rejected their attempts to get more heavily involved in November, saying that State Board had shown a willingness to defend the law's constitutionality.

State Board spokesman Patrick Gannon said Friday morning that it's up to Attorney General Josh Stein how to proceed unless the board itself takes a position. He also said legislative leadership could attempt an appeal. Attempts to reach spokespeople for Speaker of the House Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger weren't immediately successful.

The announcement means the court gave weight to arguments made by several NAACP branches pressing the case and arguing that a voter ID law the General Assembly passed in 2018 is discriminatory, much like a version passed in 2013, which was also struck down by the courts.

Unlike the 2013 law, the 2018 version followed a constitutional amendment that North Carolina voters approved, adding a voter ID requirement to the state constitution. Lawmakers then passed more detailed rules, over Gov. Roy Cooper's veto, to implement that requirement.

The rule, NAACP attorneys said in their filings, would disproportionally effect black and Latino voters, who are less likely to have photo ID. Proponents of the rule have noted, repeatedly, that free IDs will be made available to those who need them. Voters can also sign an affidavit affirming their identity if they have a 'reasonable impediment' to producing photo ID and then cast a provisional ballot.

The law was set to go into effect with next year's elections, and it would also expand the number of poll watchers allowed and loosen requirements for vote challenges. The NAACP branches said the law violates both the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as Section 2 of the U.S. Voting Rights Act and that it's a 'barely disguised duplicate' of the 2013 voter ID law, which the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found discriminatory."

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Hannah Piercey