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Court case on Voter ID to start May 6th

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / March 21, 2024

After a five-year delay, and with North Carolina elections already using it, a federal trial on the constitutionality of voter I.D. has been ordered to begin on May 6th. It will be a bench trial with no jury.

Federal Justice Loretta Biggs, an African American, issued the order March 13th, denying a 2021 motion by the N.C. State Board of Elections for a summary judgment.
“State Board Defendants argue that Plaintiffs’ evidence does not show discriminatory intent,” Judge Biggs wrote. “Plaintiffs argue that there is more than sufficient evidence in the record for each factor to defeat summary judgment with respect to discriminatory intent. Plaintiffs are correct, at least with respect to the historical background and whether S.B. 824 bears more heavily on one race than another or its impact.”

Senate Bill (S.B.) 824 is the 2018 voter ID law plaintiffs are suing to stop, alleging that it was racially discriminatory. State lawmakers in the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly quickly passed the measure after voters ratified a Constitutional amendment mandating voter ID become law.

But plaintiffs allege that given North Carolina’s history of racial discrimination, and especially the racial bias the courts found in the passage of the 2013 voter ID law before knocking that down, this 2018 legislation was no different, and should be declared unconstitutional as well.

“Assessing whether Plaintiffs have shown that racial discrimination was a substantial or motivating factor behind enactment of S.B. 824 is fact-intensive, and at this stage, the Court cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations,” Judge Biggs wrote. “Even after affording the state legislature a presumption of good faith, in light of the evidence in the record on the historical background and impact of S.B. 824, State Board Defendants have failed to show that there is an absence of evidence to support that racial discrimination was a ‘substantial’ or ‘motivating’ factor behind the enactment of S.B. 824.”

“Should Plaintiffs succeed in showing discriminatory intent, the burden would then shift to State Board Defendants to show that S.B. 824 would have been enacted without racial discrimination.” Biggs continued.

Even though the state Board of Elections are the defendants in the case, Republican legislative leaders have also been allowed to file motions in defense of the 2018 voter I.D. law, thanks to a June 2022 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. The five-year delay in going to trial is the result of several appeals that needed to be heard and determined in the case.

Judge Biggs also wrote that she saw things in the 2018 voter ID law that raised concerns in her mind.

“There is sufficient evidence in the record to suggest an inequality in the opportunities enjoyed by non-White and White voters to elect their preferred representatives,” she wrote.


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