The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory
, the case against what Democrats and leftist activists call “North Carolina’s worst-in-the-nation voter suppression law.” The ruling struck down a state law requiring voters to show photo identification when casting their ballots in the November election. The court ruled that it discriminated against black Americans.
The law was passed just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court voted in June 2013 to eliminate a requirement that states with a history of discrimination receive federal approval before changing election laws.
The court also struck down other restrictions that restricted early voting, prevented residents from registering and voting on the same day, and eliminated voters’ ability for cast ballots outside their assigned precinct. Critics of the law say that photo ID laws put into place by North Carolina and other states are intended to supress voter participation on the part of minorities and the impoverished who are allegedly less likely to possess drivers’ licenses or other forms of government issued identification. “We cannot ignore the recent evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history,” Judge Diana Motz wrote.
The finding by the court is seen as boosting the chances of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton of winning votes in a state that is important to her campaign but does not lean heavily toward either Democrats or Republicans. Clinton is, however, heavily favored among black Americans over Republican nominee Donald Trump.
In its ruling, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Fourth Circuit said the state legislature targeted black Americans “with almost surgical precision.” The court wrote, “We can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent.”
The key part of the ruling is that North Carolina allegedly acted with racially discriminatory intent, which can provide the basis for putting North Carolina and its voting laws back under federal supervision for up to 10 years. The court’s 83-page decision is here.
Gov. Pat McCrory (R) is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. According to Rick Hasen at ElectionLawBlog
, the effect of the appeal is likely to be “to no effect.”
A section of the ruling spoke to the decision by the original U.S. District Court to uphold the law:
“[...] we must conclude that the district court fundamentally erred. In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with discriminatory intent, the court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees. This failure of perspective led the court to ignore critical facts bearing on legislative intent, including the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina.”
“Faced with this record, we can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the district court to the contrary and remand with instructions to enjoin the challenged provisions of the law.”
Another section of the ruling read, “Using race as a proxy for party may be an effective way to win an election. But intentionally targeting a particular race’s access to the franchise because its members vote for a particular party, in a predictable manner, constitutes discriminatory purpose. This is so even absent any evidence of race-based hatred and despite the obvious political dynamics. A state legislature acting on such a motivation engages in intentional racial discrimination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act.”
In a statement, Dale Ho of the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union said, “This ruling is a stinging rebuke of the state’s attempt to undermine African-American voter participation, which had surged over the last decade.” The ACLU was one of the groups that challenged the law in court. As many as 29,000 voters may now be able to vote because of the elimination of the I.D. and other requirements.
Among the organizations and states that filed amicus curiae
briefs in support of North Carolina were Judicial Watch, Allied Educational Foundation, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Ted Cruz, Mountain States Legal Foundation, American Civil Rights Union, State of Indiana, State of Alabama, State of Arizona, State of Arkansas, State of Georgia, State of Kansas, State of Michigan, State of North Dakota, State of Ohio, State of Oklahoma, State of South Carolina, State of Texas, State of West Virginia, State of Wisconsin, Pacific Legal Foundation, and the Center for Equal Opportunity.
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