Publisher's note: The author of this post is Mitch Kokai for the John Locke Foundation.
A unanimous, all-Democrat N.C. Appeals Court panel has decided to block voter ID
in North Carolina indefinitely.
A federal court already had blocked voter identification for the March 3 primary election. The state Appeals Court's decision means voter ID will not be used - if at all - until after a full trial on the merits of a challenge to North Carolina's voter ID law in state court.
Judges Toby Hampson, John Arrowood, and Allegra Collins reversed a decision from a lower three-judge panel. That Superior Court panel had determined that voter ID critics had not presented enough evidence to justify a preliminary injunction blocking voter ID before a full trial.
Writing for the unanimous Appeals Court panel, Hampson's 45-page opinion outlines several reasons why the voter ID law shows signs of discriminatory intent. Take his assessment of a provision that allows any qualified voter to argue that a "reasonable impediment" stands in the way of acquiring a voter ID:
- While it may be true that African-American voters without a qualifying ID could still be able to vote by using the reasonable-impediment provision, this fact does not necessarily fully eliminate the disproportionate impact on African-American voters resulting from both S.B. 824's voter-ID provisions and the reasonable-impediment provision. As Plaintiffs have shown, the voter-ID provisions likely will have a negative impact on African Americans because they lack acceptable IDs at a greater rate than white voters. Accordingly, it follows African-American voters will also then have to rely on the reasonable-impediment provision more frequently than white voters. Although the reasonable-impediment provision casts a wide net in defining the types of reasonable impediments that qualify under the law, which Defendants contend will result in almost every reason for lacking an acceptable ID to constitute a reasonable impediment, a voter using this provision must still undertake the additional task of filling out the reasonable-impediment form and submitting an affidavit verifying its veracity to cast a provisional ballot, which is subject to rejection if the county board believes the voter's affidavit and reasonable impediment are false. Although Defendants assert these additional steps to vote are not overly burdensome,the use of the reasonable-impediment provision is still one more obstacle to voting, which Plaintiffs have shown will be an obstacle that African Americans will have to overcome at a rate higher than white voters, given their disproportionately lower rates of possessing qualifying IDs. Accordingly, even though at this stage the evidence shows it is "not [an] overwhelming impact," the reasonable-impediment provision nevertheless suffices as a "[s]howing [of] disproportionate impact," establishing another circumstance evidencing discriminatory intent.