A federal judge has put a smack down on the Obama Justice Department by upholding sweeping North Carolina voter ID laws in a decision handed down late Monday night. The Justice Department and the North Carolina NAACP argued that the law was designed to suppress minority votes but Judge Thomas D. Schroeder rejected those claims and said the law served a “legitimate state interest” in its effort to “detect and deter fraud.”
The plaintiffs “failed to show that such disparities will have materially adverse effects on the ability of minority voters to cast a ballot and effectively exercise the electoral franchise” as a result of the 2013 state law, Schroeder wrote. That argument was made more difficult after black voter turnout increased in 2014, he wrote.
“There is significant, shameful past discrimination. In North Carolina’s recent history, however, certainly for the last quarter century, there is little official discrimination to consider,” Schroeder wrote.
Opponents of the law criticized the decision and vowed to continue the fight:
“This is just one step in a legal battle that is going to continue in the courts,” said Penda Hair, an attorney representing the NAACP. The law “targets the provisions that once made North Carolina among the states with the highest turnout in the nation. This progress was especially clear among African-American and Latino voters, who came to rely on measures like early voting, same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional ballots to ensure their voices were heard.”
Dena Iverson, spokeswoman for the Justice Department, “We’re disappointed in the ruling, reviewing the decision carefully and evaluating our options.”
North Carolina Governor applaud the ruling as “common sense” and said:
“Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and thankfully a federal court has ensured our citizens will have the same protection for their basic right to vote.”
The decision now heads to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and, depending on their decision, could end up at the Supreme Court which, of course, currently sits at a potential 4-4 deadlock due to the vacancy of late Justice Antonin Scalia. Given the process involved and the potential for a SCOTUS deadlock, it’s hard to see how the North Carolina law could be overturned before the November presidential election.