By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
February 10, 2021
More than two years after North Carolinians overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment requiring voters to show a photo ID, the effort to increase election integrity remains an ongoing battle. But a ruling this week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit may bring the voter ID law one step closer to being enforced.
N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) called the ruling a win for the state’s voters and said the ID requirement must be implemented for the next election.
“As the 2020 elections demonstrated, voting in person with a photo ID is the best way to ensure the integrity of our elections,” Moore said in a press release on Tuesday.
The legal decision he was celebrating was, in essence, the full court’s choice not to review the ruling of three of its members who, in December 2020, overturned a district court judge’s injunction against the voter ID law.
Nearly a year earlier, U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs had ordered a halt to the Voter ID implementation, saying that the law was “motivated, at least in part, by racially discriminatory intent.” In overruling Biggs, the trio of judges acknowledged that there is a “shameful history of race-based voter suppression in North Carolina,” but pointed out that acts of past lawmakers cannot be held against those currently in office.
Citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Circuit Judge Julius Richardson wrote that, “A legislature’s past acts do not condemn the acts of a later legislature, which we must presume acts in good faith.” The panel also found Biggs’ opinion was permeated with “fundamental legal errors.”
Nonetheless, the plaintiffs, which include the North Carolina NAACP, pressed for an “en banc” review. That’s what was denied this week.
Still, a separate state court injunction on the voter ID law remains in place and further litigation, in both state and federal arenas, is expected this spring.
“We’re glad to see this common sense ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “But truly this issue should not still be tied up in the courts. Some of the very people who have claimed to be defending voters’ rights are running roughshod over the rights of the voters who already cast ballots affirming their support for Voter ID.”
Across the U.S., 34 states require some form of ID with North Carolina the only state in the Southeast not to do so. According to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures, North Carolina’s rules are considered “non-strict,” because of the variety of IDs that people would be able to use if the law were implemented, as well as possible excuses they could provide for not having an ID.
A voter without a photo ID would be allowed to vote if he signed an affidavit about why he did not have one. Reasonable impediments could include lack of transportation, illness, work, family responsibilities, or lack of required documentation.
Moore pointed out that North Carolina’s law accommodates religious objectors, provides for free government-issued IDs and accepts drivers’ licenses, passports, military and veteran IDs, student IDs, voter ID cards, as well as state and local government IDs. Drivers’ licenses from other states would even qualify in some circumstances.
According to the Pew Research Center, a 2018 survey showed that more than three-quarters of Americans favored requiring voters to show government-issued photo IDs to vote. The vast majority of Republicans (91 percent) backed ID requirements, as did 63 percent of Democrats.