North Carolina Supreme Court rejects ‘discriminatory’ voter ID constitutional amendment

North Carolina Disputed Election
A polling worker enters a polling place in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, April 24, 2019 as early voting began in the Republican primary election for the North Carolina 9th Congressional District, a special election that was forced after last year’s race was voided by a ballot-collection scandal. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) Chuck Burton/AP

North Carolina Supreme Court rejects ‘discriminatory’ voter ID constitutional amendment

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North Carolina‘s Supreme Court struck down a voter ID law on Friday, finding that it was “motivated by a racially discriminatory purpose.”

In 2018, the state’s Republican-controlled legislature passed Senate Bill 824 over a veto from its Democratic governor and sought to create a state constitutional amendment requiring a photo ID to vote. In a 79-page ruling, justices voted 4-3 that while the law appeared neutral on the surface, it was made to “target African-American voters who were unlikely to vote for Republican candidates.”

“The guarantee of equal protection of the laws means that a law enacted with the intent to discriminate on the basis of race is unconstitutional even if no voter ultimately is disenfranchised because ‘racial classifications of any sort pose the risk of lasting harm to our society,’” Justice Anita Earls wrote.

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The court cited the ways that the law would likely affect black voters in addition to the Republican-controlled legislature’s “unprecedented” decision to call for a lame-duck session to pass the amendment while the party enjoyed a supermajority.

The ruling also mentioned how North Carolina’s legislature could have established a voter ID law that was less restrictive in order to achieve its goal, which is to reinforce election security.

“Given the rarity of voter fraud in North Carolina, a less restrictive law could have been sufficient to deter voter fraud and promote voter confidence in elections had this goal been the law’s only actual purpose,” the justices said.

A trial court previously highlighted that North Carolina is presently and historically racially divided, noting the demographics indicating that most white voters are Republican registrants and most black voters support the Democratic Party.

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The decision does not limit lawmakers’ ability to revisit the matter and pass a revised version of the law. In a 2018 referendum, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly supported photo ID and directed lawmakers to pass a measure with such merits.

The state’s high court also ruled that a revised state House map passed by lawmakers earlier this year can be used in future elections and that a congressional map to be used only for this year’s election was constitutional.

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