As it stands, North Carolina voters will not be required to show photo identification through at least the March 3 primary election.
N.C. voters approved a referendum in 2018 that would amend the N.C. constitution to bolster voter ID requirements. The referendum was codified by the Legislature in Senate Bill 824, which went into effect on Dec. 5, 2018.
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill, but the General Assembly overturned his decision and codified the bill into law, requiring all voters to show an approved form of photo identification in order to cast an absentee ballot or vote in person.
The day after Cooper's veto was overturned, the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and other branches throughout the state filed a lawsuit regarding the amendment against Cooper and members of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, claiming it will have a negative impact on minority voters and decrease the voting strength of minorities.
Diane Robertson, the political action co-chair for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, said it was important for her branch of the NAACP to be involved because she said the amendment is an act of voter suppression.
“We saw this as a way of keeping certain people from voting. Voter ID tends to impact the people who have the least resources,” Robertson said. “The requirement to get the kinds of ID that the state was mandating in itself was a barrier. We got involved in this suit because of the history of fighting for voting access. This was imperative that we oppose any effort to prevent people from voting.”
U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs issued an injunction preventing the state from implementing the new law at least through the March 3 primary election and until the lawsuit is settled.
“With the 2020 primaries on the horizon, there is some risk that a preliminary injunction could add to confusion, thereby threatening an effective roll-out should the law later be declared valid,” the ruling stated. “However, the far greater risk is that a law enacted with discriminatory intent, the effects of which are likely to be disproportionately borne by minority voters, be allowed to operate.”
In a released statement, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, condemned the injunction and called for an appeal.
“This last-minute attempt by an activist federal judge to overturn the will of North Carolina voters must be immediately appealed by the Governor’s Board of Elections,” Moore said. “To issue an injunction against one of the nation’s most lenient voter ID laws – which 34 states already have – without providing an opinion is an outrageous affront to due process, the rights of North Carolina voters, and the rule of law.”
In a press release, N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein stated his intention to appeal the injunction but not until after the March 3 primary election in order to prevent any extra voting confusion and to make sure the timeline for voting proceeds on schedule.
Robertson said she was disappointed in the decision by the attorney general to appeal.
“I sat in on the oral arguments in early December,” Robertson said. “I thought that the case presented by the NAACP was very sound and solid and gave great evidence as to why voter I.D. would be a form of voter suppression, so I was disappointed to know that the Attorney General’s Office was going to embark on an appeal to support voter suppression.”
Since the appeal won’t be filed until after the primary, voters may not need to bring their photo identification for the entire 2020 election cycle.
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