BY CASH MICHAELS
What a federal judge stopped short of doing weeks ago, a three-judge panel of the State Court of Appeals may have now done, put the nail in the coffin of voter photo identification for the rest of 2020, and with it, the November 3 general elections.
On last Tuesday, in a 45-page ruling, that panel of three Democrat appellate judges unanimously ruled that North Carolina’s voter ID law was deliberately discriminatory toward African American voters. Thus, the judicial panel of Toby Hampson, John Arrowood and Allegra Collins issued a preliminary injunction temporarily shelving the law (Senate Bill 824) until trial.
Most observers agree that a trial in this matter most likely won’t be scheduled to commence until after the Nov. 3 general election, meaning that the preliminary injunction will remain in force automatically through then.
It was Dec 31, 2019, when US District Court Judge Loretta Biggs, an Obama appointee, similarly ruled Republican lawmakers in the NC General Assembly had “discriminatory intent” against African Americans when it passed SB 824 a year earlier. She issued a preliminary injunction against the voter ID, making it ineligible to be enacted per the March 3 primaries, for which early voting is currently going on. However, Judge Biggs’ injunction was seen as expiring before the November elections.
She also noted that the federal courts had determined the very same discriminatory intent when the GOP-led legislature passed the 2013 voter ID law, which was eventually struck down by a federal court.
GOP lawmakers, after voters ratified a constitutional amendment establishing voter ID in Nov. 2018, then passed the law, saying that the majority of North Carolinians had spoken.
However, voters were only told what the amendment was, never how it established voter ID, and that’s where now two courts – one federal and one state- have both grabbed the Republican-led NC General Assembly by the collar and legally chastised it for passing a law that was racially discriminatory.
In Tuesday’s unanimous decision, Judge Hampson wrote, “….the evidence shows the General Assembly specifically left out types of ID’s that African Americans disproportionately lack. Such a choice speaks more of an intention to target African American voters rather than a desire to comply with the newly created amendment in a fair and balanced manner. Accordingly, we conclude, on this record, defendants have yet to show SB 824 would have been enacted in its current form irrespective of any alleged underlying discriminatory intent.”
In both the federal and state court rulings, the judges indicated that Republican lawmakers were likely to lose their case.
Attorney Irving Joyner, Chair of North Carolina Central University School of Law, applauded the appellate decision in the case, Holmes v. Moore.
“The Court of Appeals opinion in Holmes v. Moore is just another recognition by a “court of law” that the North Carolina General Assembly acted with continuing racial animus when it enacted the latest Voter ID requirement. The Holmes opinion tracked, in large part, the reasoning that Judge Loretta Biggs recently reached in NC NAACP v. NC Board of Elections when she reached the same conclusion in a similar case in federal court.”
Attorney Joyner continued, “It was instructive that both of these courts acknowledged that the North Carolina General Assembly had made no efforts to correct, or even address, the racial animus that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had concluded in a 2016 opinion (of the 2013 voter ID law), existed and was the foundation for legislators’ previous effort in 2013 to enact a photo ID requirement in North Carolina. Every court which has reviewed the constitutionality of the Voter ID scheme in this State have concluded that its design and intent was to suppress the votes of African Americans and Latinos which violates federal and North Carolina law.”
Republicans couldn’t disagree more.
“North Carolinians know that General Assembly leaders will continue to fight on their behalf for a common sense voter ID law that they chose to put in our state constitution, and we will not be deterred by judicial attempts to suppress the people’s voice in the democratic process,” said House Speaker Tim Moore, who is named in the case.
“Activist Democrat judges are undermining the votes of more than 2 million North Carolinians by throwing out our voter ID law. It’s time to restore the rule of law in North Carolina,” opined Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican candidate for governor.
However, Attorney Joyner has a message for disgruntled GOP’ers.
“It is time for this flagrant exhibition of racial animus by the North Carolina General Assembly to end,” he said. “The State should acknowledge its past misconduct and history and immediately cease and desist any further efforts to suppress the vote and political participation by African Americans and Latinos. Shame! Shame! Shame!!