Last week’s federal court ruling on North Carolina’s most recent voter ID law will keep the issue alive for years to come — and will ensure more fairness at the voting booth.
In 2018, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring photo ID to be shown at the voting booth. But following a federal lawsuit filed by the state and several local chapters of the NAACP, U.S. District Judge Loretta C. Biggs issued an injunction last week to block the law, saying she found compelling evidence that state Republican legislators acted with racially discriminatory intent in passing it, the Journal’s Michael Hewlett reported.
In her 60-page ruling, Biggs cited years of repeated Republican efforts to institute a voter ID law, sometimes pushed hand-in-hand with provisions that eliminated same-day voter registration and cut the number of days for early voting — practices that were disproportionally used by black and Hispanic voters.
She cited evidence that black and Hispanic voters were less likely to have photo IDs than white voters — and more likely to be poor and to lack transportation, obstacles in obtaining even free photo IDs. She wrote about the forms of ID that legislators found acceptable and those they found unacceptable — once again, decisions that disfavored black and Hispanic voters.
She referred to Republican claims of voter fraud — claims made repeatedly with little supporting evidence. She noted the lack of provisions to prevent voter fraud in absentee voting — the one place where it has been proven to occur.
In other words, the non-racial reasons defendants gave for needing the law didn’t hold up, she said. But it sure did make things more difficult for black and Hispanic voters.
“It is absolutely ridiculous that the judge would accuse the bill sponsors — including an African American Democrat — of being racist,” Lauren Horsch, a spokeswoman for state Senate leader Phil Berger said of the ruling. “The voters saw the need for voter ID and approved the constitutional amendment.”
It doesn’t sit well with us that a constitutional amendment approved by a large margin of voters would be overturned by a federal judge.
But a lot of that approval relied on misinformation about voter fraud supplied by the Republicans who pushed the laws. Many North Carolinians still seem to be in denial about the difficulties that poor blacks and Hispanics experience in trying to obtain photo IDs, among other aspects of their lives.
It’s unlikely that the majority of state Republican legislators who have written voter ID laws are racist — nor did the judge call them racist. But they want to win elections. It’s beyond denial that most blacks and Hispanics currently vote for Democrats, and reducing their number could give Republicans an advantage at the ballot box. There’s a considerable amount of evidence, unfortunately, that suppressing the minority vote has become an acceptable Republican tactic.
We’re sure that rank-and-file Republicans don’t like or approve of voter suppression — they’d like to think that their side plays fair. All the more reason to police their own officials rather than leave it to the courts.
Voters won’t have to present photo ID when they cast ballots during the March 3 primary elections, but this decision surely won’t end the fight. It would be better for our state if members of both major parties concentrated their efforts on registering voters and making voting easier for all citizens. That’s the best way to ensure that our laws represent the will of the people.