A North Carolina state court panel on Friday blocked a voter identification law, citing discrimination against Black voters.
The law, known as SB 824, was passed in 2018 after Republicans lost their supermajority in the legislature but before the new legislature took over. It was already on hold under a preliminary injunction, after North Carolina’s Court of Appeals said voter ID provisions could negatively impact Black voters. But now the state court has permanently blocked the law, which required photo identification to vote.
The majority of the three-judge panel said Friday that the law “was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American 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,” Superior Court Judges Michael O’Foghludha and Vince Rozier wrote in their ruling Friday.
The ruling, which comes as voting rights are under attack across the country, could still be appealed.
In a statement, Southern Coalition for Social Justice co-executive director and chief counsel for voting rights Allison Riggs and pro bono counsel Andrew Ehrlich – attorneys who served on behalf of a group of North Carolina voters – said they “hope” the ruling sent “a strong message that racial discrimination will not be tolerated.”
The statement continued: “Today’s ruling striking down North Carolina’s latest unconstitutional photo voter ID law is a testament to the overwhelming evidence, including compelling stories of disenfranchisement from voters themselves, which highlighted how the state’s Republican-controlled legislature undeniably implemented this legislation to maintain its power by targeting voters of color.”“
However, GOP leaders in North Carolina on Friday called the ruling “partisan,” doubling down on the claim that voter IDs promote election security.
“For all their talk about a secure democracy, the left, with an able assist from the judiciary, is doing their best to undermine it. Today, a partisan court blocked the will of a majority of North Carolinians who amended their Constitution to require photo voter ID,” North Carolina state Sen. Paul Newton, a Republican, said in a statement.
“The Republican-led legislature has made incredible strides to increase confidence in elections, and Democrats continue to use the judicial branch to thwart the will of the majority of North Carolinians. We will appeal this case,” he said.
After the ruling, Sam Hayes, general counsel for North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, also a Republican, said, “This fight is far from over.”
“Once again, liberal judges have defied the will of North Carolinians on election integrity. Voters of this state have repeatedly supported a voter ID requirement – going so far as to enshrine it in our state constitution. Senate Bill 824 is one of the most generous in the country, and it was modeled on those of other states. At trial, Plaintiffs could not produce a single witness who would be unable to vote because of the law,” Hayes said in a statement.
“We look forward to appealing this partisan ruling on behalf of the people of North Carolina,” he added.
In a statement, the plaintiffs’ attorneys brushed off any potential appeal.
“Should legislative defendants appeal today’s ruling, we’ll be prepared to remind them of what this court and the state’s constitution mandate: every vote matters,” they said.