The Rev. Anthony Spearman with the N.C. NAACP became the only candidate for president of the state chapter when the national chapter suspended the membership of the Rev. Curtis Gatewood.

GREENSBORO — The president of the state NAACP says North Carolina's "recycled discriminatory photo ID requirement" against minorities appears to be working.

On Tuesday, surrounded by NAACP chapter presidents from around the state, the Rev. T. Anthony Spearman said the civil rights organization has heard from minorities who say they're afraid they won't be able to vote under a retooled voter identification requirement scheduled to go into effect in 2020.

Proponents of the new law said it will help eliminate voter fraud.

Opponents contend that it's a ploy by GOP lawmakers to discriminate against minorities.

"The same legislature that committed the most widespread unconstitutional racial gerrymander in modern-day history," Spearman said.

Officials with the North Carolina Board of Elections have said that no one will be turned away from the polls or told they can't vote if they don't have a photo ID.

Still, voter ID laws have historically suppressed and disenfranchised minority voters, particularly African-Americans who were born during the Jim Crow era and may not have received birth certificates.

In North Carolina, the question of whether such a law is necessary has been hotly debated for years on the floor of the General Assembly and in the courts, with neither Democrats or Republicans ceding ground.

In 2013, the General Assembly passed a photo ID law that contained a number of restrictions on voting. 

In 2016, that law was struck down by a federal court as unconstitutional for the "surgical precision" in which African-Americans were targeted.

In late 2018, voters approved a constitutional amendment that was more expansive, requiring that some sort of photo identification be presented in order to cast a ballot. The amendment allows for many different types of identification, ranging from a driver's license to a passport to a college ID to a tribal-enrollment card.

The law was passed despite Gov. Roy Cooper's veto. However, a group of voters sued. 

In late July, a three-judge panel didn't completely dismiss the lawsuit, but ruled that the voter ID law could go into effect next year.

Tuesday's press conference was a reminder that there's still opposition to the new law even as the 2020 presidential election looms and North Carolina finds itself once again in the role of a battleground state.

Spearman said the new law will be ineffectual against voter fraud.

"It has nothing to do with the reliability of voting machines, safeguarding voter data or protections against foreign interference," he said.

Contact Nancy McLaughlin at 336-373-7049 and follow @nmclaughlinNR on Twitter.

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