(Reuters) – A North Carolina appeals court on Tuesday blocked the state’s voter identification law from going into effect, finding it was a discriminatory attempt to suppress the black vote, in a victory for Democrats and voting rights advocates.
The appeals court reversed a lower court decision that denied a preliminary injunction against a law requiring voters to produce a photo ID at the polls.
The ruling puts the voter ID law on hold until the underlying lawsuit challenging it is decided, likely blocking it for the November 2020 general election.
The law did include a provision allowing people without proper ID to still vote, but the appeals court found the provision burdensome and that the “discriminatory intent” of the law was especially evident in those exceptions.
“Such a choice speaks more of an intention to target African-American voters rather than a desire to comply with the newly created Amendment in a fair and balanced manner,” the three-judge panel said in its 45-page ruling.
In December, a federal court issued a preliminary injunction against the same voter ID law, finding that it was at least partially motivated by an attempt to discriminate against certain voters in violation of their rights to equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
But the state appeals court found it was justified in claiming jurisdiction over the issue.
The appeals court then reversed another three-judge panel in the lower Wake County Superior Court, which had allowed the voter ID law to remain in effect pending trial.
Republican-led legislatures in several states have passed similar voter ID laws, arguing they are needed to prevent voter fraud.
But critics including Democrats and voting rights advocates call the laws an effective way to attempt to suppress votes from African Americans, who are both more likely to vote Democratic and lack the needed identity cards.
“Extensive research reveals that fraud is very rare (and) voter impersonation is virtually nonexistent,” the Brennan Center for Justice, which bills itself as a nonpartisan law and policy institute, says in its ongoing voter fraud project.
The law in question originated from a 2018 ballot initiative passed by voters to require photo ID before balloting. The initiative also assigned to the state legislature the task of writing a law detailing the requirements.
After the Republican-led legislature passed such a law, Senate Bill 824, Democratic governor Roy Cooper vetoed it, only to have his veto overridden.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Andrea Ricci