North Carolina’s new voter ID law is already being challenged through the courts.
Just minutes after the General Assembly voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed suit in Wake County Superior Court claiming that the law that implements voter ID in North Carolina violates numerous provisions in the state constitution.
The NAACP filed suit the next day, this time in federal court. Their lawsuit says the voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th amendments U.S. Constitution.
Both lawsuits’ legal arguments seem dubious on their face. More than 55% of the state’s voters approved in November an amendment to the N.C. constitution that requires voters to show photo ID at the polls.
That added language to the state constitution. Voter ID is literally constitutional law.
Here’s how the arguments shape up in each lawsuit.
The state court lawsuit’s arguments push the boundaries of the written word.
Technically, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s lawsuit challenges the law that implements the constitutional amendment, not the amendment itself. But in essence, the suit includes a wide range of arguments that claim the constitutional amendment is constitutional. Among them:
- The free IDs impose a “cost” on voting
- The IDs constitute a “property” requirement. The state constitution restricts any laws requiring people to own property to vote, but that has always meant real estate.
- The voter ID “impedes voters’ ability to engage in political expression and speech”
The only reasonable argument is that the law is “purposefully discriminating against” African-Americans in violation of the equal protections clause.
A 2013 law that included voter ID among other election-related changes was successfully challenged as unconstitutional. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that voter ID itself is legal under the federal Constitution.
Absent smoking-gun evidence that the General Assembly specifically sought to disenfranchise black voters, the lawsuit will likely have a difficult time proving its case.
The federal lawsuit leans heavily on the NAACP’s 2013 victory.
The new NAACP lawsuit leans heavily on that history to try to illustrate discriminatory intent of legislators. They also claim that the law will affect a “disproportionate number of African Americans and Latinos in North Carolina.”
However, the lawsuit fails to mention the numerous ways that voters without ID will be able to obtain one free of charge. It also fails to mention that voters are not technically required to show photo ID. If they have a broadly defined “reasonable impediment” to getting ID they can file a provisional ballot along with an affidavit attesting to that.
We’ll keep tracking the progress of voter ID lawsuits here at Longleaf Politics.
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Cover photo of the Wake County Courthouse via Flickr (Creative Commons).