The recent federal court ruling on North Carolina’s newest voter ID law will keep the issue alive for years to come — and it will ensure greater fairness at the voting booth.
In 2018, North Carolina voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that requires a photo ID be shown at the voting booth. But after the state and several local chapters of the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Loretta C. Biggs issued an injunction to block the law, saying she found compelling evidence that state Republican legislators acted with racially discriminatory intent in passing it.
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 disproportionately used by black and Hispanic voters. She cited evidence that black and Hispanic voters were less likely to possess 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 disadvantaged black and Hispanic voters.
Biggs 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 nonracial reasons defendants gave for needing the law didn’t hold up, she said. But it 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. 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 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 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, but this decision surely won’t end the fight. It would be better if both major parties concentrated their efforts on registering voters, making voting easier for all citizens.
And then earning election the old-fashioned way, by getting the most support at the polls.