A federal appeals court just blocked North Carolina's 'discriminatory' voter ID law

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The Republican-led legislature of North Carolina seems to have trouble passing laws that don't discriminate in some way.

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that a 2013 law that required voters to show photo identification was passed with the intent to discriminate against people of color—violating the Constitution and Voting Rights Act—and must be blocked immediately.

The three-judge panel on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals practically accused the North Carolina Legislature in its opinion of directly discriminating against black voters:

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 do not exist. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the state's true motivation.


The judges also seemed surprised that the lower court had found no discriminatory intent in the law, which also ended same-day voter registration and pre-registration for voters under 18 as well as reducing early voting.

"In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with discriminatory intent, the court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees," the panel wrote.


There were some pretty racist-looking trees in this forest. In arguing its case, North Carolina claimed they were trying to do away with "political gamesmanship" as a result of early voting being offered in "disproportionately black" and "disproportionately Democraticic" districts. That's pretty close to just outright saying you want fewer black people to vote.


The Legislature also appears to have tailored its early voting restrictions around black voters' habits, choosing to eliminate the first week of early voting shortly after receiving data that black voters disproportionately voted during that period.


The North Carolina law is one of several voter ID measures passed by conservative legislatures with the ostensible aim of cutting down on voter fraud. In reality, voter fraud is an almost nonexistent problem. Instead, the laws tend to disenfranchise legitimate black and Latino voters, who just so happen to lean heavily Democratic.

As of publication, Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the bill into law, and state legislative leaders have not made any public statements about the ruling. They might be a bit busy getting ready to defend their other controversial law in court.

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