North Carolina court strikes down voter ID law as unconstitutional

On Sept.17, 2021, a three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court ruled 2-1 that North Carolina’s voter ID law violates the state constitution. As a result, the court blocked enforcement of the law.

The court found that “the evidence at trial [is] sufficient to show that the enactment of [the voter ID law] was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters.” The court also ruled that “[o]ther, less restrictive voter ID laws would have sufficed to achieve the legitimate nonracial purposes of implementing the constitutional amendment requiring voter ID, deterring fraud, or enhancing voter confident.” Judges Michael O’Foghludha and Vince M. Rozier Jr. formed the majority. Judge Nathaniel J. Poovey dissented. Sam Hayes, general counsel for House Speaker Tim Moore (R), said Moore would appeal the ruling.

The court’s order represents its final judgment on the matter. The court had previously issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law on a temporary basis, pending resolution on the merits.

This ruling is the most recent in a series of legal developments involving North Carolina’s voter ID law. On Nov. 6, 2018, North Carolina voters approved a state constitutional amendment establishing a photo identification requirement for voters. The state legislature, with Republican majorities in both chambers, approved implementing legislation (SB 824) in December of that year, overriding Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto. Lawsuits immediately followed, both in federal and state-level courts. In December 2019, a federal district court temporarily enjoined SB 824, but this ruling was subsequently overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The state lawsuit giving rise to the Sept. 17 order has been ongoing since 2019.