Federal appeals court overturns NC voter ID law, says it was enacted 'with discriminatory intent'
RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - A federal appeals court has found that a North Carolina voter ID law was enacted "with discriminatory intent" and must be blocked.
An opinion issued Friday by a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reverses a lower-court's ruling that had upheld the law.
"Faced with this record, we can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent," said Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, writing for the majority of the court. "In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its action, the State offered only meager justifications. Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist."
The order reverses the state's 2013 rewrite that added the photo ID requirement and changes to early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration.
"With surgical precision, North Carolina tried to eliminate voting practices disproportionately used by African-Americans. This ruling is a stinging rebuke of the state's attempt to undermine African-American voter participation, which had surged over the last decade," said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. "It is a major victory for North Carolina voters and for voting rights."
The U.S. Justice Department, state NAACP, League of Women Voters and others sued the state, saying the restrictions violated the remaining provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act and the Constitution.
"We applaud the appeals court for recognizing the discriminatory intent behind and effect wrought by the 2013 monster law. Because of this ruling, North Carolinians will now be able to register and vote free of the obstacles created by the Legislature in 2013," said Southern Coalition for Social Justice senior attorney Allison Riggs.
Republican leaders were quick to criticize the ruling.
"Since today's decision by three partisan Democrats ignores legal precedent, ignores the fact that other federal courts have used North Carolina's law as a model, and ignores the fact that a majority of other states have similar protections in place," said North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) in a joint statement. "We can only wonder if the intent is to reopen the door for voter fraud, potentially allowing fellow Democrat politicians like Hillary Clinton and Roy Cooper to steal the election."
Berger and Moore said they will appeal the "politically-motivated" decision to the Supreme Court.
To read the court's ruling click here: http://bit.ly/2ampRPC
Copyright 2016 WECT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.