North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law, which required registered voters to show identification before casting their ballots and barred early and out-of-precinct voting, was struck down Friday by a federal appeals court.
The decision followed a unanimous vote by a three-judge panel in the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Justice Diana Gribbon Motz, writing for the majority, called the ID law "one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history," particularly for black Americans.
North Carolina’s law was enacted in 2013 following the controversial US Supreme Court ruling that invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act. That policy, passed in the 1960s, provided a reversal of Jim Crow–era voter suppression laws.
In a blatant admission of the motivation behind North Carolina’s law, the state actually argued that black voters had "too much" voter accessibility. The court recognized this in its decision, ruling in favor of the North Carolina NAACP, which brought the case forward:
Thus, in what comes as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times, the State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race — specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise.
In its argument, the state also made its case against early voting by stating that "[c]ounties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black" and "disproportionately Democratic."
Voter ID laws are often argued to be modern versions of poll taxes or literacy tests, which were banned in the 1960s due to their disproportionate effects on black communities. However, those who support the identification restrictions — typically Republicans — say they’re really just trying to prevent voter fraud.
According to the Washington Post, Justice Department attorney Anna Baldwin told the court that as a result of the 2013 law, many people were "shut out of the political process" in the 2014 election. Around 1,600 ballots cast out of district were not counted, and nearly 12,000 people were unable to register to vote on Election Day.
The decision is hailed as a civil rights victory, coming only nine days after a Texas court struck down a similar law last Wednesday, also decided on the grounds of racial discrimination.