North Carolina appeals court blocks voter ID law

ARLINGTON, VA - MARCH 01: People stand in line to cast their votes at the polling place inside the Arlington County Fire Station 10 during Super Tuesday voting March 1, 2016 in Arlington, Virginia. Officials are expecting a record turnout of voters in Virginia, one of a dozen states holding presidential primaries or caucuses. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNN) — North Carolina’s Court of Appeals on Tuesday blocked the state’s new voter ID law from taking effect, a move that will likely prevent it from being in place in time for the 2020 elections.

The ruling, coming two weeks before the Tarheel State holds its presidential primaries on March 3, is a victory for civil rights groups and advocates who have argued the law would disenfranchise poor and minority voters. A separate ruling in federal court has already issued a block of the voter ID law through the state’s primaries, and Tuesday’s decision all but ensures a block through the general election in November until another ruling.

In Tuesday’s decision, the court said voter ID provisions “likely will have a negative impact on African Americans because they lack acceptable IDs at a greater rate than white voters.”

The North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley called the voter ID ruling “ridiculous” and said the opinion was “invalidating the votes of more than 2 million North Carolinians who voted for a constitutional amendment in 2018.”

“The opinion, issued by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, ignores the fact that more than 30 other states have enacted similar laws which have been upheld by federal courts,” Whatley said in a statement on Tuesday. “An overwhelming percentage of North Carolinians of every demographic support voter ID and we are very disappointed to see a panel made up of three Democratic judges overturning their votes by judicial fiat.”

North Carolina lawmakers in 2013 passed a measure requiring residents to present photo identification to vote, but critics slammed it as an effort to disenfranchise poor and minority voters and those with disabilities.

Conservatives had pushed the photo ID requirement, saying it would prevent vote fraud, although studies of recent elections show in-person voter fraud to be rare.

A federal appeals court in 2016 overturned parts of the North Carolina law, including the provision that required voters to show photo ID cards, saying the provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision” and “impose cures for problems that did not exist.”

About 55% of North Carolinians voted in 2018 to approve a state constitutional amendment that would require photo ID to vote. The Legislature then finalized legislation that laid out how the amendment would be implemented, according to CNN affiliate WTVD.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill in December 2018, charging that it was “designed to suppress the rights of minority, poor and elderly voters.”

In December, Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, said in a statement his appeal would focus on the November 2020 general election. Stein noted that, to avoid further confusion, he would not request the voter ID be reinstated for the state’s March 2020 primaries.

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