Federal court upholds voter ID law

Federal court upholds voter ID law
April 28
06:36 2016

N.C. NAACP President William Barber



U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder ruled against the N.C. NAACP and other plaintiffs, upholding voter ID and other changes to North Carolina election laws.

Schroeder heard arguments on most of the provisions in North Carolina’s election reform act, known as House Bill 589, last summer.

Lawyers with the N.C. NAACP, U.S. Justice Department and League of Women Voters argued that eliminating same day registration, out-of-precinct voting, pre-registration for teens and shortening early voting discriminated against minorities and young voters. This year, Schroeder heard arguments on the voter ID requirement that went into effect during the March primary.

N.C. NAACP President William Barber said the ruling has been appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

“We know that people –African-Americans , Latinos, women and students– have been disenfranchised by this voter suppression law and we are appealing immediately,” he said.

Schroeder’s 485-page ruling, released Monday evening, agreed that the state has a history of  “significant, shameful past discrimination” against minority voters but there “is little official discrimination  to consider” in the last 25 years. He wrote the plaintiffs “failed to show that such disparities will have materially adverse effects on the ability of minority voters to cast a ballot.”

While he acknowledged “educational and socioeconomic disparities suffered by African-Americans,” he didn’t think that they prevented African-Americans from voting under the new provisions.

“The evidence shows that, like all voters, African-Americans are not only capable of adjusting, but have adjusted,” wrote Schroeder.

Democracy N.C. Executive Director Bob Hall condemned the ruling.

“Schroeder’s decision ignores the reality that over 1,000 voters who lacked an acceptable ID took the trouble to fill out forms at polling sites in the March primary but were silenced; their ballots were rejected, often for trivial and inconsistent reasons, depending on where they voted and the wording they used to explain their lack of ID,” said Hall.

Lawyers in the case like Allison Riggs of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice are looking to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling. The Fourth Circuit previously ruled against Schroeder on the case in 2014 granting an injunction he had denied against the law that was later over-turned by the U.S. Supreme Court, which kept an injunction restoring same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting.

“Today’s ruling is inconsistent with the Fourth Circuit’s decision in 2014, and we’re confident that the voters in this state will eventually be vindicated,” said Riggs.

Schroeder’s ruling maintains the injunction until the June 7 primary and then same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting will end.

Democracy North Carolina estimates that 29,000 votes were saved in the March primary by those two measures.

Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed HB 589 into law and is named in the lawsuit, praised the ruling, saying photo IDs are also required for things like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed.

“This ruling further affirms that requiring a photo ID in order to vote is not only common-sense, it’s constitutional,” said McCrory.

HB 589 started as a voter ID law and then had many provisions added to it after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, which forced certain states and counties with a history of voter discrimination to get Justice Department approval when changing election laws. The Supreme Court ruled that the list of states requiring pre-clearance was dated and ordered Congress to come up with a new formula, which it hasn’t done. Barber said during a conference call on Tuesday that HB 589 wouldn’t have gone into effect if pre-clearance still existed and that Congress should pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore it.

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Wali Pitt

Wali Pitt

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