WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a three-judge panel of a North Carolina state trial court struck down a strict photo ID law, finding that the law was passed with the intent, at least in part, to discriminate against African American voters. The court held that Senate Bill 824, which provides a narrow list of qualifying photo IDs acceptable for voting, violates the North Carolina Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and cannot stand.
In its detailed opinion, the court laid out North Carolina’s long history of voter suppression, concluding that “North Carolina’s unfortunate history of using voting laws to suppress minority political participation continues into the present.” The court pointed to S.B. 824’s path to passage as a signal of its racial intent, writing that the bill’s history “shows that the proponents of S.B. 824 enacted the law in the lame duck session, over Governor Cooper’s veto, in order to pass their preferred, and more restrictive version of a voter ID law—one that was less flexible and included fewer forms of qualifying ID than the law that likely would have been enacted once the duly elected legislature was seated in 2019.” Furthermore, evidence presented to the court showed that Black voters are 39% more likely to lack qualifying ID than registered white voters and that “the burdens of obtaining a qualifying ID are also likely to fall more heavily on African American voters than on white voters,” another signal that S.B. 824 was motivated at least in part by an intent to discriminate against Black voters. The court rejected the defendants’ arguments that S.B. 824 was enacted to protect against voter fraud and strengthen voter confidence. The court concluded that “the evidence presented to the Court, when viewed in the totality of circumstances, points to the conclusion that S.B. 824 was enacted in part for a discriminatory purpose and would not have been enacted in its current form but for its tendency to discriminate against African American voters.”