State judges who struck down North Carolina’s latest photo voter identification law on Friday made the right decision, said Kevin Farmer, the chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party.
“The courts saw through the lies and hypocrisy and ruled accordingly,” Farmer said.
“Republicans always want to tell you that government is this massively incompetent, lumbering behemoth, incapable of doing anything right,” Farmer said.
“And yet when it comes to the subject of making voter ID available to the people, all of a sudden, government becomes a model of efficiency and efficacy,” Farmer said. “What a bunch of nonsense.”
Two of the three trial judges declared the December 2018 law is unconstitutional, even though it was designed to implement a photo voter ID mandate added to the N.C. Constitution in a referendum.
They said the law was rushed and intentionally discriminates against Black voters, violating their equal protections. The two judges agreed with six minority voters, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that the judges considered, that Republicans rammed through rules tainted by racial bias as a way to remain in power.
The law “was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters,” Superior Court Judges Michael O’Foghludha and Vince Rozier wrote in their 102-page order.
“Other, less restrictive voter ID laws would have sufficed to achieve the legitimate nonracial purposes of implementing the constitutional amendment requiring voter ID, deterring fraud or enhancing voter confidence,” the judges wrote.
Kenneth Raymond, the chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, criticized the ruling.
“I’m not going to tiptoe around this,” Raymond said. “The Democrats hate the voter ID law because they want to be able to easily cheat during elections.
“Why do they even bother to hide behind accusations of racism,” Raymond asked. “Everybody knows they cheat. And everybody knows that’s why the Democrat(ic) judges on the state Superior Court panel rejected the voter ID law,” Raymond said. “And that’s why they completely disregarded the will of over 60 percent of voters that voted to support Voter ID.
“So that Democrats can continue to steal elections,” Raymond said.
The majority decision, which followed a three-week trial in April, will be appealed, Republicans at the state legislature said. A state appeals court had previously blocked the law’s enforcement last year.
Al Jabbar, the president of the Winston-Salem chapter of the NAACP, praised the ruling.
“We are ecstatic that this (voter ID law) was thrown out on the state level,” Jabbar said. “The Republican Party in Raleigh continues to deem it necessary to approach this and put stumbling blocks in the way of Black and brown voters.”
With a similar lawsuit in federal court set to go to trial this January and another state court lawsuit now on appeal, it’s looking more unlikely that the current voter ID law will be enforced in the 2022 elections.
Allison Riggs, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, praised the decision. Riggs said the ruling reflects “how the state’s Republican-controlled legislature undeniably implemented this legislation to maintain its power by targeting voters of color.”
Republicans have said voter ID laws are needed to build public confidence in elections and to prevent voter fraud, which remains rare nationwide. Many Democrats see the mandates as attempts at voter suppression.
In July 2016, a federal appeals court struck down several portions of a 2013 North Carolina law that included a voter ID mandate, saying GOP lawmakers had written them with “almost surgical precision” to discourage voting by Black residents, who tend to support Democrats.
Lawyers for the voters who sued over the 2018 law said it suffered from similar issues as the 2013 law — following a long effort by N.C. elected officials to weaken African American voting as a way to retain control of the General Assembly.
The 2013 law was carried out briefly in 2016 primary elections.
GOP legislative leaders and their attorneys disagreed, saying the latest ID rules were approved with noteworthy Democratic support and improved to retain ballot access while ensuring only legal citizens can vote.
The law will continue to face legal challenges, said John Dinan, a Wake Forest University political science professor and an expert on state legislatures.
“North Carolina’s voter ID law faces a number of obstacles before it can take effect, including cases being litigated in state and federal court and featuring a variety of complaints,” Dinan said.
“This particular lawsuit,” Dinan said, “is just one of several lawsuits that will continue to work their way through state and federal court systems in coming months and years and that will likely result in a range of legal outcomes depending on which judges and which courts are considering the issue.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report