Once again, a North Carolina court has decided that a voter ID law proposed by the Republican-led legislature was written with ill intent — racial bias, in particular — and struck it down as unconstitutional. The decision, declared by two of three trial judges, isn’t surprising, not only because of precedent, but because it’s so obvious.
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 decision.
“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,” they added — a point to which we’ll return momentarily.
The decision will be appealed, but it’s only one of several voter ID cases moving through the courts. No such law is likely to be instituted before the 2022 election, which is good for people who prefer their elections to be free and fair.
Republicans have said voter ID laws are needed to build public confidence in elections — the public confidence they’ve been actively undermining for a good decade or more — and to prevent voter fraud — the widespread voter fraud they consistently fail to prove exists.
The idea of a voter ID requirement, in and of itself, may not be objectionable — especially if it actually does help restore voter confidence. (Telling the truth, that Democrats sometimes win, also would help.) But there were multiple problems with this law.
For one, many terms in the law were left undefined, like what types of IDs would be accepted and who would make those decisions. Those factors could be manipulated by whatever party is in the majority for its own gain.
But the biggest problem, as the court says, is that this law aimed to suppress the votes of Black citizens, who vote more heavily for Democrats — and not for the first time. It’s an echo of the Republicans’ 2013 election law, which a federal appeals court slapped down for being riddled with “racially discriminatory intent” to target Black residents with “almost surgical precision.”
Last week’s decision was welcomed by Kevin Farmer, the chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party. “The courts saw through the lies and hypocrisy and ruled accordingly,” Farmer told the Journal’s John Hinton.
His counterpart, Kenneth Raymond, the chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, disagreed.
“I’m not going to tiptoe around this,” Raymond told the Journal. “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. Everybody knows they cheat.”
Ah, yes, the mysterious but ubiquitous “everybody” and the effective but untraceable “cheating.” Is this the “everybody” that says vaccines aren’t effective, despite the absence of the vaccinated from overflowing hospitals? Is it the “everybody” that says John F. Kennedy Jr. is still alive, or that former President Trump will be reinstated to office next week?
Despite all the fanciful claims, Republicans have consistently failed to prove widespread voter fraud in court. The charge exists only through a series of self-serving anecdotal tall tales.
On top of that, Republican officials who run elections in disputed states such as Georgia and Arizona continually assure us that no widespread voter fraud occurs.
Raymond’s rhetoric is not only unrealistic, it’s highly irresponsible. With increasingly violent rhetoric and actions rising in right-wing circles because of such claims — Jan. 6 comes to mind — responsible leaders need to calm the waters, not churn them more with baseless, sour-grapes conspiracy theories.
Raymond might want to consider that Republican assertions that elections are rigged are probably keeping a number of their own supporters from casting votes.
Republicans don’t have to go down this route. There are GOP leaders who insist on integrity and adherence to reality, even if it means short-term election loss. They believe that the GOP should get ahead by promoting their conservative message and expanding their voter base.
Those are the leaders who deserve followers — and the leaders North Carolina needs to take us into the future.