North Carolina court rejects Republican photo voter ID law as unconstitutional

·2-min read

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) - A North Carolina court on Friday struck down a voter photo identification law passed by Republicans in 2018, finding it intentionally discriminated against Black voters likely to vote Democratic.

The ruling marks the second consecutive Republican-backed voting law from North Carolina to be overturned by the courts. A U.S. appeals court in 2016 found a previous law targeted African Americans "with almost surgical precision."

In Friday's ruling, a 2-1 majority of the Wake County Superior Court wrote that the 2018 law "was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters."

Other states with Republican majority legislatures have passed similar laws in recent years, some with renewed purpose after President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and falsely claimed the election was stolen for President Joe Biden.

Georgia and Texas passed voter laws this year that triggered a national backlash from civil rights advocates.

The North Carolina ruling did not find that supporters of Senate Bill 824 were racist, but that targeting Black voters because of their propensity to vote for Democrats was discriminatory.

The ruling quoted from the 2016 federal appeals court ruling that overturned the previous law, known as House Bill 589.

"We do not find that any member of the General Assembly who voted in favor of S.B. 824 harbors any racial animus or hatred towards African American voters, but rather ...that the Republican majority 'target(ed) voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party. Even if done for partisan ends, that constitute(s) racial discrimination,'" the majority said.

That Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stood after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a North Carolina-based civil rights group that helped bring the suit, applauded the decision and vowed to fight any appeal.

"(We) hope it sends a strong message that racial discrimination will not be tolerated," Allison Riggs, the coalition's chief counsel for voting rights, said in a statement.

Sam Hayes, a lawyer the Republican North Carolina House speaker Tim Moore, declared, "This fight is far from over."

He referred to the November 2018 election, when voters approved a ballot measure supporting a constitutional amendment requiring photo identification to vote.

"Once again, liberal judges have defied the will of North Carolinians on election integrity," Hayes said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)

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