In December of 2020, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously reversed a lower-court decision to enjoin North Carolina’s voter ID law and constitutional amendment.
Holding 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 full 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to review this decision en banc in a court entry filed on February 8, 2021, a decision Speaker of the House Tim Moore called “another win for North Carolina voters.”
“We just won another victory in court defending the requirements for photo voter ID that you added to your Constitution,” Senator Kevin Corbin said of the Court of Appeals announcement.
A majority of states —30 to be exact—across the country have some form of a voter ID law. North Carolina’s pending voter ID law is non-strict – any qualified voter can attest to a reasonable impediment to obtaining a qualifying ID and still cast a ballot.
North Carolina’s pending voter ID law also 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.
Voter ID was approved by the majority of voters across North Carolina, however, In December 2019, U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs, one federal judge, blocked the implementation for the 2020 election.
Challenges to the Voter ID law were based on the law disenfranchise African American voters, and while the US Court of Appeals ruled the 2018 Voter ID was constitutional, In its decision the court acknowledged that “there is a long and shameful history of race-based voter suppression in North Carolina.”
But it also pointed out that acts of a past legislative body do not mean that current bodies are inherently not acting with good intentions.
“The outcome hinges on the answer to a simple question: How much does the past matter?” Circuit Judge Julius Richardson wrote in the opinion, citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision. “A legislature’s past acts do not condemn the acts of a later legislature, which we must presume acts in good faith.”
With the most recent Court of Appeals ruling, the federal court’s block on voter ID is no longer in place, however, there is still a block in the state court level.
Trials are still expected before Biggs and in state court in 2021 in separate lawsuits challenging the law implementing a 2018 amendment to the state constitution that required the use of photo ID to vote in North Carolina elections.
“We expect a fill trial in both state and federal court in the Spring,” said Senator Corbin.