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North Carolina court blocks voter ID law for discriminatory intent

The statute's enactment was “motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters,” the judges' decision said.
Early voters wait to cast their ballots in Durham, N.C., on Oct. 15, 2020.Gerry Broome / AP file

A panel of state judges blocked North Carolina’s voter identification law on Friday, ruling that the law’s enactment was “motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters.”

Republican lawmakers rushed a strict voter ID law through the state Legislature in 2018, overriding a gubernatorial veto from Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. The law was challenged immediately by a group of voters, and courts blocked the law’s enforcement while the suit was litigated and appealed through state courts. The decision was 2-1, with two Democratic Judges Michael O’Foghludha and Vince Rozier Jr, ruling that the law violated voters right to equal protections under the law. The ruling may be appealed to the state Supreme Court, according to the Associated Press; there is also an ongoing challenge to the law in federal court.

The opinion concludes they did not find the Republican lawmakers harbored “racial animus or hatred” but had sought to target voters who “were unlikely to vote for the majority party.” A partisan goal enacted through racial means is nonetheless illegal racial discrimination, the court concluded.

Black voters were 39 percent more likely to lack a form of qualifying identification, the court said, citing an analysis by University of Michigan Professor Kevin Quinn, an expert witness for the plaintiffs.

“Other, less restrictive voter ID laws would have sufficed to achieve the legitimate nonracial purposes of implementing the constitutional amendment requiring voter ID, deterring fraud, or enhancing voter confidence,” the court concluded.

Judge Nathaniel Poovey, a Republican, dissented, writing that “not one scintilla of evidence was introduced during this trial that any legislator acted with racially discriminatory intent.”