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North Carolina judges block voter ID law, saying it discriminates against Black people

North Carolina State University students wait in line to vote in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state’s first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards.

Sara D. Davis | Getty Images

A panel of North Carolina judges in a split decision Friday blocked the state’s voter ID law, saying it discriminated against Black people.

Two judges on the panel said in their majority opinion that evidence shows the law, which requires voters to present a photo identification to cast a ballot, “was enacted in part for a discriminatory purpose.”

The decision in Wake County Superior Court also said that the law “would not have been enacted in its current form but for its tendency to discriminate against African American voters.”

The ruling came after a trial conducted earlier this year.

North Carolina’s voter identification law was enacted in late 2018 when a supermajority of the state General Assembly overrode a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. The law said valid forms of ID under the law would include state driver’s license, U.S. passports and a state-issued voter ID.

Passage of the bill came weeks after North Carolina voters voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would require identification to be presented when voting, and less than a month before Republicans were set to lose their supermajority in the General Assembly.

Judges Michael O’Foghludha and Vince Rozier Jr. wrote the majority decision Friday.

They noted that the ID law “is the only legislation implementing a constitutional amendment ever to be enacted in a post-election lame duck session in North Carolina,” and that it was passed after another court ruling which had ordered “racially gerrymandered” legislative districts that favored Republicans to be redrawn.

That “suggests that Republicans wanted to entrench themselves by passing their preferred, and more restrictive, version of a voter ID law,” the majority wrote.

Judge Nathaniel Poovey dissented from that decision, writing that “not one scintilla of evidence was introduced during this trial that any legislator acted with racially discriminatory intent.”

“The majority opinion in this case attempts to weave together the speculations and conjectures that Plaintiffs put forward as circumstantial evidence of discriminatory intent behind Session Law 2018-144,” Poovey wrote.

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