North Carolina Judges Nix Voter ID as ‘Unconstitutional’

   On Sept. 17, a three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court ruled 2-1 that North Carolina’s voter ID law violates the state constitution.

The law remains not in force.

In early 2020, the same court ordered an injunction on the law pending its final ruling. Supporters of the law have indicated they will appeal this decision.

This is the latest in a series of legal challenges concerning North Carolina’s voter ID law. Here’s a brief history.

  • June 29, 2018: The North Carolina State Senate voted 33-12 to place House Bill 1092 (HB 1092) on the November ballot, which, if passed, would amend the state constitution to require voter identification at the polls under rules established by the legislature.

  • Dec. 6, 2018: To comply with the amendment, the General Assembly of North Carolina voted to approve Senate Bill 824 (SB 824), which established the laws governing the state’s voter ID requirements.

  • Dec. 14, 2018: Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed SB 824.
NC Courts
  • Dec. 19, 2018: The North Carolina House of Representatives overrode Cooper’s veto. The first lawsuits against SB 824 were filed soon after.

  • July 19, 2019: The Wake County Superior Court declined the plaintiffs’ motion for an injunction to halt SB 824. Plaintiffs appealed.

  • Feb. 18, 2020: A three-judge panel on the North Carolina Court of Appeals ordered the Wake County Superior Court to grant the plaintiffs’ motion for an injunction, which it did, pending its final decision.

  • Sept. 17, 2021: The Wake County Superior Court ruled SB 824 as unconstitutional.

Under North Carolina’s SB 824, voters would be given a list of specific photo identifications they could present at the polls, including items like a driver’s license, passport, or tribal ID.

SB 824 does not provide for a non-photo ID alternative like an affidavit or signature matching. If a voter cannot present one of the required IDs at the polls, he or she would be able to cast a provisional ballot but would have to return to the county board of elections with a proper form of identification before the votes are canvassed.

The Wake County Superior court panel found that “the evidence at trial [is] sufficient to show that the enactment of [SB 824] was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters.”

Judges Michael O’Foghludha (D) and Vince Rozier Jr. (D) formed the majority. Judge Nathaniel Poovey (R) dissented. All three judges were last elected in 2018 after running unopposed in partisan elections to serve eight-year terms.

Sam Hayes, general counsel for House Speaker Tim Moore (R), said Moore would appeal the ruling. If he does, the case would go before a panel of judges from the North Carolina Court of Appeals, on which Republicans currently hold a nine-seat majority. Democrats hold five seats with one judge’s partisan affiliation unknown.


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