Voter ID or no Voter ID… that is the question

Just before flipping the calendars to 2020, a Federal court ruled that voters in North Carolina will NOT have to show their ID during the 2020 March Primary… beyond that, it is yet to be decided. U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs ruled that while a trial can still sort out the issues, it appears that parts of the law “were impermissibly motivated, at least in part, by discriminatory intent.” The North Carolina Board of Elections was in the middle of printing out millions of brochures to be mailed out across the state informing voters of the new ID requirement… however, a Federal Court issued the temporary block while the courts continue to battle it out.

The case – NAACP et al v Cooper – filed in North Carolina’s Middle District, is one of at least two current lawsuits challenging the state’s voter ID law. The president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter, the Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, said during a news conference Friday that the group is “overjoyed that the federal court will intervene to halt this illegal photo ID” law.

He called the law “the latest bad faith attempt in a string of failed efforts by the North Carolina General Assembly to impede the right to vote of African Americans and Latinos in this state.” While as of today, no Voter ID will be required for the March Primary, that could change for the November general election, pending a successful appeal.

The North Carolina Republican Party immediately issued a statement calling on the North Carolina State Attorney General’s Office to issue and appeal of the decision. Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein’s office issued a statement saying it would review the court’s decision to issue a temporary injunction before deciding whether or not an appeal would be appropriate, but believes that the state will challenge the ruling in an appeal.

North Carolina’s Voter ID debate began in 2013 when lawmakers passed the first law requiring a photo identification card be presented at the polls. Over the next seven years, there has been back and forth and legal challenges on the law. In 2016, a federalists’ appeals court ruled that the 2013 law “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision” and “imposes cures for problems that did not exist.”

After the federal court’s appeal of the state law, lawmakers made the move to put the vote on the ballot to let North Carolina voters decide. In 2018, just over half, about 55 percent, of North Carolina voters approved a state constitutional amendment that would require photo ID to vote.

The legal battle continued, as North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the bill in December 2018 claiming the amendment would disenfranchise the state’s minority, poor and elderly voters. With the majority in the state Legislature, Republicans overrode Cooper’s veto and Voter ID became law of the land… until the most recent federal interference.

North Carolina is the only state in the southwest portion of the country without some sort of Voter ID requirement and while in the south, North Carolina is in the minority for not having some sort of requirement, there are 18 states in the country that do have a photo ID requirement and another 16 states that require identification, albeit not a photo. As it stands, voters will NOT have to show a photo ID for the March 3 primary, but all of that could change prior to the November General Election, so stay tuned!

By Brittney Lofthouse

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