The North Carolina U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously reversed a lower-court decision to enjoin North Carolina’s voter ID law and a constitutional amendment on Wednesday. The three-judge panel of the court rules that “the district court’s opinion devotes little analysis” to its ruling, the federal appeals court said that “we reverse because of the fundamental legal errors that permeate the opinion.”
The implementation of Voter ID was blocked by U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs a year ago, pointing in part to past evidence of racial discrimination in North Carolina and a previous federal court decision to block a 2013 voter ID law as discriminatory. In the ruling on Wednesday, the 4th Circuit judges acknowledged that while there is “a long and shameful history of race-based voter suppression in North Carolina,” they said courts must presume legislatures act in good faith when laws are passed.
This federal case was argued before the 4th Circuit in September before three judges: Pamela Harris, Julius Richardson, and Marvin Quattlebaum. Richardson wrote Wednesday’s opinion, and the other two judges signed on. Quattlebaum and Richardson were appointed to the court by President Donald Trump and Harris by President Barack Obama. The ruling said the lower court made numerous errors and “abused its discretion” in blocking the state from requiring photo ID during the November elections, a requirement voters wrote into the North Carolina constitution in 2018.
North Carolina’s voter ID law applies to absentee ballots as well as in-person voting. State House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), a primary sponsor of North Carolina’s voter ID constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2018, released a statement:
“Now that a federal appeals court has approved North Carolina’s voter ID law and constitutional amendment, they must be implemented for the next election cycle in our state,” Speaker Moore said Wednesday. “If the 2020 elections have taught us anything it is the fact that voting in person with a photo ID is the best way to ensure the integrity of our elections.”
North Carolina’s voter ID law accepts a wide range of IDs, provides for free IDs and says voters can attest that they couldn’t get a qualifying ID and still cast a ballot. The law accommodates religious objectors, provides for free government-issued IDs and accepts drivers’ licenses, passports, military and veteran IDs, student IDs, voter ID cards, as well as state and local government IDs. Drivers’ licenses from other states would even qualify in some circumstances.
Although the court’s ruling dealt with the injunction that blocked the implementation of the state’s Voter ID requirement, the possibility of a reversal remains. There is still a full trial anticipated on the constitutionality of the overall Voter ID requirement pending in Federal Court. A separate lawsuit was also filed targeting this law at the state court level, and there’s a third lawsuit targeting multiple amendments to the state constitution, including voter ID. All three cases remain active.
Seemingly addressing the pending court cases surrounding North Carolina’s Voter Id law, the 4th Circuit judges noted Wednesday that North Carolina’s voter ID law “is more protective of the right to vote than other states’ voter-ID laws that courts have approved.