In 2018, the North Carolina legislature passed a law that would create a new amendment to the state constitution requiring voter ID at all polling places. The law (Senate Bill 824) passed with significant support, primarily from Republicans who held a supermajority in the legislature and successfully overrode a veto by the governor. But this week, in one of the most self-contradictory rulings I’ve seen in quite a while, the state supreme court struck down the law, claiming that it was unconstitutional. Reading through the ruling is an exercise in confusion and nonsensical assumptions by the justices of the court. (The Hill)
North Carolina’s Supreme Court on Friday struck down a state voter ID requirement, finding that it was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and violated the state’s constitution.
Senate Bill 824 — which was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2018 over a veto from its Democratic governor — sought to implement a state constitutional amendment requiring photo ID to vote.
The court found that while the law appeared neutral on its face, it was enacted “to target African-American voters who were unlikely to vote for Republican candidates.”
The arguments being made here are identical to the ones we’ve heard from Democrats across the nation and they don’t make any more sense now than they did in the past. (Not that that’s ever stopped them from trying.) At the highest level of the court’s argument, they’re saying that the law is unconstitutional. But how do you declare something unconstitutional when it’s being put into the constitution?
The primary argument being made in this ruling is that the amendment was written “to target African-American voters who were unlikely to vote for Republican candidates.” So that’s crystal clear, right? They’re saying that the law is racist.
But the ruling then immediately turns around and claims “we do not conclude that the General Assembly harbored racial animus.” So what are they saying about the Republicans in the legislature? That they were… unintentionally racist? And yet the very next sentence says that the law “targeted voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party.” So now we’re back to the authors being racists, apparently. And we’re entirely ignoring the rather racist assumption by the court that most or all Black voters are Democrats.
The ruling also includes the usual Democratic talking point citing “the disparate impacts the law was likely to have on Black voters.” This argument has always been little more than horse-hockey. Like virtually every other state, North Carolina has bent over backward to ensure that every legal resident of the state can obtain a free voter identification card regardless of race, gender, income level, or any other demographic you can name. The information describing how to do so would be universally available. You simply have to go down to the local DMV or board of elections and ask for one. You will be given one at no charge. If anyone in the state didn’t have a valid ID under the proposed system it would be because they either didn’t want one or couldn’t be bothered to take the time to go get it.
The court went on to whine about how the legislature could have passed “a less restrictive law.” Would the justices care to explain exactly how that would work? How can a law be “less restrictive” when you’re talking about what is fundamentally a binary decision? You either need to provide some form of ID to vote or you don’t.
This entire ruling is a partisan smokescreen. North Carolina really needs to get some new justices on the state supreme court.