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North Carolina judge blocks voter ID law, declares it has ‘unconstitutional intent’

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Ensuring the integrity of America’s elections has become a priority for Republicans who want to reinforce voter confidence in outcomes, but judges in North Carolina have become the latest to make the ridiculous claim that using voter ID as a means of verification is a way for the GOP to exploit racial bias to remain in power.

The December 2018 law was ruled unconstitutional by two of the three trial judges at Wake County Superior Court in Raleigh. They found that the law was rushed, intentionally discriminates against black voters and violates their equal protections.

The ruling from Superior Court Judges Michael O´Foghludha and Vince Rozier came despite the fact that the law was designed as a means to implement a photo ID mandate for voters which was previously added to the North Carolina Constitution.

In their 102-page ruling, the judges found that the law had “an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters” and they maintain that the law is a least partly motivated with malicious intent toward black voters.

Plaintiffs testified about the difficulties they experienced obtaining an ID under an earlier voting law, but lawyers for the GOP noted that ALL voters would continue to be able to vote under the 2018 law.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers argue that the 2018 law is part of a long effort by North Carolina lawmakers to retain the General Assembly by weakening the African American vote.

Republican lawmakers and their attorneys disagreed, pointing out that the latest ID rules were approved with bipartisan support and improved to retain ballot access while ensuring only legal citizens can vote.

The types of identification permissible were also expanded to afford voters without traditional IDs access to the polls. The expansion included college student and government-employee IDs. Free IDs were made available as well under the law and anyone who still remained without access to an ID could vote if they filled out a form.

The dissenting Judge Nathaniel Poovey wrote in his opinion that there was “not one scintilla of evidence” presented that any legislator acted with racially discriminatory intent.

The plaintiffs’ evidence relied “heavily on the past history of other lawmakers and used an extremely broad brush to paint the 2018 General Assembly with the same toxic paint,” Poovey wrote.

“Liberal judges have defied the will of North Carolinians on election integrity,” Sam Hayes, an attorney for House Speaker Tim Moore, a defendant in the lawsuit said.

“Photo voter ID laws are designed to bolster confidence in elections. Calling this law irredeemably racist does the exact opposite,” Senator Paul Newton of Cabarrus County said, according to the DailyMail.

The majority opinion found that while no lawmakers were explicitly racist towards black voters, that Republicans aimed to target voters “who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party”.

The federal court reached the same ruling in July 2016 when it struck down several portions of a 2013 North Carolina law written by Republicans, saying the voter ID mandates were designed with “almost surgical precision” to discourage black voters.

“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 judges who ruled against the 2018 law added.

The law remains unenforceable, but Republicans will appeal the ruling. However, with a similar federal lawsuit set to reach trial in January 2022 and another state court lawsuit on appeal, it is unlikely that voter ID law will be enforceable in the 2022 elections.

Kay Apfel

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