A federal judge decided Thursday (Dec. 26th) that North Carolina voters will not have to show a photo ID to vote a regular ballot, at least in the upcoming 2020 Primary. The court's pending preliminary injunction, details of which will be released early next week, could temporaily stop the new voter ID law from going into effect altogether, as the lawsuit against it continues.
Absent a successful appeal of the ruling, this change will come just weeks before voting begins in North Carolina, with mail-in Primary ballots set to go out in mid-January, and the state's 17-day one-stop Early Voting period starting on February 13th.
US District Court Judge Loretta Biggs, an Obama appointee, is presiding in the case, which was filed in North Carolina's Middle District and has had hearings in Winston-Salem.
"The court gave advance notice to plaintiffs that it will enjoin the photo voter ID law next week," Caitlin Swain, an attorney for the NAACP, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a Friday morning email. "We are awaiting the full order."
The decision can be appealed. The State Board of Elections had opposed the injunction, which was requested in September. State Board spokesman Patrick Gannon said Friday morning that it's up to Attorney General Josh Stein how to proceed.
Laura Brewer from the Attorney General's Office said they will wait to review the full order next week before deciding next steps. Tim Moore of Shelby, speaker of the NC House, called on the State Board, to appeal the decision, which he called "a last-minute attempt by an activist federal judge to overturn the will of North Carolina voters."
House Rules Chairman David Lewis said in a text that the General Assembly will also "explore additional options to ensure that the people's vote for voter ID is respected."
Unlike a 2013 law, the 2018 version was approved after North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment adding a voter ID requirement to the state constitution.
Proponents of the rule have said that free IDs made available to those who need them at all elections offices invalidates the argument of NAACP attorneys that the law disproportionally affects black and Latino voters, who are less likely to have photo ID.
The law also allows voters who don't have an acceptable ID to sign an affidavit affirming their identity if they have a "reasonable impediment" to producing photo ID, and then cast a provisional ballot.
The NAACP said the law violates both the 14th and 15th amendments to the US Constitution, as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Stein's office also noted differences between the new law and the one passed in 2013: Under the prior law, county boards did not issue free IDs and the new law offers a broader scope for the "reasonable impediment" provision.
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