Federal Judge Plans to Block North Carolina Voter ID Law

December 29, 2019 Updated: December 29, 2019
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A federal judge is preparing to grant the NAACP’s request to block a North Carolina law requiring that voters use photo identification to prove who they are before voting in elections.

With 15 electoral votes, North Carolina was a key battleground state in the 2016 presidential election, and there’s every indication that it will retain that status in the 2020 election. Republican Donald Trump won 49.8 percent of the popular vote in the state in 2016, compared to the 46.2 percent won by Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The injunction in the case cited as NAACP v. Cooper will be issued against S.B. 824, now known as Session Law 2018-144, which the General Assembly approved Dec. 5, 2018. There’s at least one other lawsuit that’s currently pending in challenge to the law. A previous voter ID law in the state was struck down in part in 2016.

The court ruling is expected in coming days from U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs of North Carolina’s Middle District, whom then-President Barack Obama appointed in 2014.

North Carolina NAACP President, the Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, lauded Biggs, claiming without evidence that the new law was “the latest bad-faith attempt in a string of failed efforts by the General Assembly to impede the right to vote of African Americans and Latinos in this state, and to blunt the force of the true will of the people.”

In fact, Session Law 2018-144 came after voters expressed their will at the ballot box Nov. 6, 2018, approving by a vote of 55.5 percent to 44.5 percent an amendment to the state constitution to require voter ID.

Spearman is known for his bitter anti-Trump rhetoric. In a 2018 interview with The News and Observer in Raleigh, he said he can’t even refer to President Donald Trump by his name.

“I have not yet been able to get to a place where I can call the president of the United States by his name. I still call him 45, number 45, because that to me is what he is. He’s a number because he doesn’t represent me, and he doesn’t represent my people.”

North Carolina Speaker of the House Tim Moore, a Republican, said he hoped the state elections board would appeal “this last-minute attempt by an activist federal judge to overturn the will of North Carolina voters.”

“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,” Moore told WRAL-TV.

House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis, also a Republican, said lawmakers will also “explore additional options to ensure that the people’s vote for voter ID is respected.”

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, said Stein would wait until the court issues its order before deciding what to do, according to the television station.

Biggs attached a note Dec. 26 to the online docket indicating she would rule, at least on the request for a restraining order, in favor of the NAACP, whose full name is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People:

“Based on the State Board’s representation at the Preliminary Injunction hearing held December 3, 2019, that the Board plans a very large statewide mailing on December 31, 2019, to educate the voters on the Photo ID provisions of S.B 824, the Court hereby informs the parties that the Court will file an Order granting Plaintiffs’ request for injunction related to the Voter Photo ID and Ballot Challenge provisions of the Act the week of December 30, 2019.”

Among the acceptable forms of photo ID allowed under the new law are a North Carolina driver’s license, a special ID card issued by the state, a state voter photo ID card, U.S. passport, tribal enrollment card, student ID card, U.S. military ID card, or a veterans ID card, according to a legislative summary.

Current law already set the fee for the special ID card at $13 but waived it for the legally blind, those older than 70, the homeless, and for those whose driver’s licenses were canceled because of mental disability or disease. The fee is also waived if the voter signs a declaration that he or she has no other photo ID.

The NAACP claims there is no need for the law. In the legal complaint filed in December 2018, the group argued that the bill is racist because, in its words, it would “impose onerous rules that will have a disproportionate impact on minority citizens’ ability to participate in the political process.”

“There is not now, and never has been, any demonstrated need for voter photo identification in North Carolina,” the complaint stated.

But a 2014 report by the North Carolina State Board of Elections found that massive voter fraud may have taken place in North Carolina. According to the Raleigh-based Civitas Institute, the report stated that 35,750 voters with the same first name, surname, and date of birth were registered in North Carolina and another state and voted in both states in the 2012 general election.