Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Court Blocks N.C. Voter ID Law ; Morrisey Had Asked 4th Circuit Court To

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Court Blocks N.C. Voter ID Law ; Morrisey Had Asked 4th Circuit Court To

Article excerpt

RALEIGH, N.C. - A federal appeals court on Friday blocked a North Carolina law that required voters to produce photo identification and included other provisions disproportionately affecting black voters, with the judges ruling the law was enacted "with discriminatory intent. Opponents of the law say the ruling should increase participation by black and Hispanic voters on Election Day in the presidential battleground state, which also has closely contested races for U.S. Senate and governor.

It marks the third ruling in less than two weeks against voter ID laws after court decisions regarding Texas and Wisconsin.

Friday's opinion from a unanimous three-judge panel of the Virginia-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a lower- court's decision upholding the North Carolina law.

"In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with discriminatory intent, the court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees, the panel wrote in its opinion.

The opinion later states that "because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.

The opinion notes that a Republican leader of the North Carolina Legislature announced their plans to pass a wide-ranging election law the day after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a major section of the Voting Rights Act, which had required locales with a history of racial discrimination to get federal clearance before changing voting laws.

"The new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, the opinion, from U.S. Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz reads.

All three judges on the 4th Circuit panel were appointed by Democratic presidents.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, along with 13 other Republican attorneys general, had written to the 4th Circuit asking for North Carolina's law to be upheld.

Morrisey, in arguing to keep the voting restrictions in place, wrote that the Voting Rights Act did not "enable federal courts to recalibrate state voting regulations whenever minority participation deviates from some mythical golden mean.

Morrisey did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The U.S. Justice Department, state NAACP, League of Women Voters and others had sued North Carolina, saying the restrictions violated the federal Voting Rights Act and the Constitution.

"This is a strong rebuke to what the North Carolina General Assembly did in 2013. It's a powerful precedent that ... federal courts will protect voting rights of voters of color, said Allison Riggs, who served as the League of Women Voters' lead lawyer on the case.

The Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, said in an interview that the ruling was a powerful victory for civil rights and for democracy. …

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