The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday October 27th

NAACP taking voter ID constitutional amendment to the N.C. Supreme Court

A Chapel Hill resident waits at the Early Voting line at Chapel of the Cross on Franklin Street on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.
Buy Photos A Chapel Hill resident waits at the Early Voting line at Chapel of the Cross on Franklin Street on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

The North Carolina NAACP announced last month that it would take a voter ID lawsuit to the N.C. Supreme Court. The lawsuit revolves around a constitutional amendment passed in 2018, that requires photo IDs to vote. 

The N.C. General Assembly placed the amendment on the ballot. However, members of the lawsuit, including the NAACP and the Southern Environmental Law Center, say a constitutional amendment shouldn’t be placed on a ballot by a racially gerrymandered supermajority.

The N.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the N.C. General Assembly was elected based on racially gerrymandered districts.

Irving Joyner, a lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs, said they are not arguing against all the legislation passed by the racially gerrymandered legislature, but are opposed to a constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority.

“In the instance where you have the requirement of a supermajority and the people that are promoting that, have cheated, have violated the very principles of a democratic society and violated North Carolina and federal law in order to achieve a base of power they are not entitled to, then that is where the objection comes in,” he said.

Kym Hunter, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said since this supermajority was only gained through gerrymandering, Democrats would have no way to reverse this decision. Additionally, she said repealing the amendment would set a precedent on the impact a gerrymandered legislature can have.

“This case is a novel unsettled question of law, and so it really always has been a question destined for the Supreme Court,” Hunter said.

Joyner and Hunter said requiring voter ID disenfranchises the African-American and Latinx communities. Across the United States, up to 25 percent of African Americans who are 18 or older don’t possess a government-issued photo ID, while only 8 percent of white individuals of the same age lack this identification, according to the ACLU. 

Bradley Hunt, a political action chairperson for the NAACP's Greensboro branch, said he believes the amendment was intended to disenfranchise voters of color, and a photo ID shouldn’t be required for the fundamental right to vote.

“Of all the challenges we have — pandemic, absentee ballot requests being thrown out, so much misinformation, not to mention a president who tells white supremacists to stand by and stand back — at this point we don’t need anything else,” Hunt said.

Lauren Horsch, a spokesperson for N.C. Sen. Phil Berger, R-Caswell, said over email that photo ID laws are present in more than 30 states in the country, and North Carolina's law is one of the most inclusive ID laws in the nation. 

She said the refusal to enforce the voter ID laws in the current election works against the will of the North Carolina people who voted for the amendment two years ago. Currently, photo voter ID is not required to vote in this election, since the amendment is still being ruled on.

“Liberal judges and special interest groups are circumventing the will of the people by blocking our constitutional requirement for photo voter ID,” Horsch said in the email.

But Joyner said photo ID is a solution in search of a problem, and wouldn’t limit voter fraud in the state. He said there hasn’t been substantial history of voter fraud in North Carolina, and the recent voter fraud in the state's 9th Congressional District was due to ballot harvesting, which photo ID wouldn’t address.

“Certainly security of the balloting process is necessary, but there are many other ways you can do that other than by imposing a photo voter ID requirement, which does not address the issue present in North Carolina and has the negative impact of minimizing opportunities for otherwise eligible African Americans and Latinos to vote,” he said.

Hunt said he is thankful the amendment is not being upheld until the Supreme Court makes a decision.

“We are just trusting now that we will be able to get enough people out to the polls and we are thankful to God we don’t need a photo ID to vote,” Hunt said.

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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