In a stunning rebuttal, North Carolina’s 2013 voting law was struck down by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, July 29, 2016! The 2013 Voter ID and other voting changes were struck down on the basis of unfairly targeting African Americans. What excellent news that no voter id will be required, and that early voting and preregistration of teens is restored. Not covered in the lawsuits is how women had been hurt by Voter ID more than men. Unfortunately, women don’t have enough standing to win a lawsuit without something like Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in place. The Voter ID law may be appealed again, but no matter what – this ruling changes a lot for the 2016 general election! Also, there is still work to be done.
The Federal Appellate Court Decision – Discriminatory Intent to this law!
The federal appellate court, a three-judge panel, determined the law, HB 589, was adopted with “discriminatory intent.” According to”4th U.S. Circuit judges overturn North Carolina’s voter ID law,” News and Observer, 7/29/16, the Court’s language was searing: “Although the new provisions target African-Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inept remedies for problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist,” according to the Court’s decision. You can access the court’s written opinion in that article.
Previous ruling upheld the law
In the previous court ruling in April of 2016, a federal judge upheld NC’s voter ID law, who in April issued a 485-page decision dismissing all claims in the legal challenge. The July 29 Appeal Court ruling sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder. Read more about Schroeder’s ruling at News and Observer article, “Federal judge who backed limits on early ballots upholds voter ID requirement,” 4/25/16.
How much the law hurt women
You notice that the Voter ID law failed because it hurt the ability of African Americans to vote. Women are also disenfranchised by the 2013 voting restrictions, but were not included in the Voter ID lawsuits because women don’t have special standing, and it would have taken too much to win the case. The Voter ID law required that the name on the photo ID presented at the polls exactly match the name on the voter rolls—a requirement that would impact women who change their name on account of marriage, re-marriage, or divorce, very widespread practices. Failure to update voter registration records with a name change could cost a woman her constitutional right to vote.
According to “Women bear the brunt of new NC voting restrictions,” 1/14/14, “[a] study done in 2013 based on actual voters and actual DMV records at the time showed about 318,000 voters who would not have been able to vote based on a Voter ID law. Of those ‘registered voters without NC Photo ID’, 64% were women, while only 36% are men. “
If the US had passed the Equal Rights Amendment that was originally proposed in 1923, there could have been separate lawsuits about women voters being disenfranchised.
More good news from the ruling
More good news in the 7/29/16 News and Observer article. including that NC’s law is the third with ID provisions to lose in court in the past two weeks! “A federal district judge found Wisconsin’s ID law too restrictive. The full 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals found that Texas’ voter ID law violated the Voting Rights Act by making it more difficult for minorities to vote and opened the door for putting the state under federal supervision again.”
What does this mean for the 2016 general election?
- Voter ID is gone!
- The full 3 weeks of early voting are restored!
- Pre-registration for 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds is restored!
- Out of precinct voting (so you can vote at other than your assigned polling site) on election day is restored.
- Same day registration stays in effect (so people can register and vote at the same time, but only during early voting).
What is ahead?
The ruling is an amazing vindication for North Carolinians! But there is more work ahead.
The ruling reset the number of days of early voting back to 17 (hurrah!), but it does not specify the number of hours for early voting polls to be open. Sites and days and hours must be revisited.
For early voting, hours, days, and sites will likely go back through the process including public input, with no guarantees. And thanks to Democracy North Carolina for the last 3 months of working those out all over the state!
The voter challenge changes that went into effect January 2014 were not revoked. These are the voter challenge changes that went into effect in January 2014, as explained by Democracy NC in their New Voting Law Summary document (Aug 2013).
MORE CHALLENGES OF VOTERS – Effective Jan. 2014
Any NC voter can challenge a voter as not being registered or
violating another rule. On Election Day, a challenger must be
from the voter’s county. The old law said any challenger must
be from the voter’s precinct. The changes open the door to
more challenges before and during elections.
Checking on straight ticket voting. See other changes still in place in the New Voting Law Summary document (Aug 13).
According to the July 29, 2016 New and Observer article, “In North Carolina, the state could ask the full bench of the 4th Circuit to review the ruling. But attorneys and others speculate that even if the full court agreed to review the case, the 2013 election-law changes would not be restored before the November elections.”
This is a vindication for North Carolinian voters – another law that fixed no real problem in NC was struck down!
Now make sure you are registered to vote, and do it!