Two judges on the committee said in their majority opinion that proof shows the law, which requires voters to display 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 decision referred to a 2015 study by a political scientist which revealed that hundreds of thousands of registered voters in North Carolina potentially lacked ID that would qualify them to cast ballots under the law.
That analysis found that 9.6% of Black “registered voters lacked acceptable ID” for voting under a prior voter ID bill, “as compared with 4.5% of white registered voters.”
The majority choice stressed that because Black people in North Carolina are more likely to live in poverty than white people, they thus are also more likely to “face greater hurdles to acquiring photo ID” as a result of not having a car or being able to get time off from work to do so.
North Carolina’s voter identification law was established in late 2018 when a supermajority of the state General Assembly canceled a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat.
The law said that valid forms of ID involved a state driver’s license, a U.S. passport, and a state-issued voter ID.
Passage of the bill came weeks after North Carolina voters voted in support of a constitutional amendment that would demand identification to be displayed 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 ruling Friday, which came after a trial earlier this year.
They stressed 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 transferred after another court decision had mandated “racially gerrymandered” legislative districts that favored Republicans to be redrawn.
That “suggests that Republicans wanted to entrench themselves by bypassing their preferred, and more restrictive, version of a voter ID law,” the majority wrote.
Judge Nathaniel Poovey differed from the 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.