It’s unconstitutional to make it harder for people of a certain race to vote, even when the intention was partisan instead of racist, a North Carolina superior court has found. That means that a voter ID law that Republicans pushed through in 2018 is unconstitutional.
A 2-1 majority of the court made clear that they weren’t calling lawmakers racist – or even implying that their motivation was primarily racist. Indeed, the purpose of the law seems to have been partisan. According to the court, “the Republican majority ‘target(ed) voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party. Even if done for partisan ends, that constitute(s) racial discrimination.’”
The facts seem clear that the effort was indeed a partisan attempt to target Democratic-leaning African-Americans. The question of the case was whether it was unconstitutional to make it harder for Democrats to vote, as opposed to African-Americans, specifically. However, the court specifically found that the law does discriminate against Blacks because they are less likely than whites to have access to the required IDs. Requiring them to get photo IDs places an unconstitutional burden on their voting rights.
This isn’t the first time a voter ID law has been found discriminatory
In 2016, a federal appellate court ruled that North Carolina’s previous voter suppression law was also unconstitutional. In addition to requiring a photo ID to vote, that law cut early voting, eliminated same-day registration, eliminated out-of-precinct voting and cut the proactive preregistration of high school students.
The appellate court found that North Carolina lawmakers had requested date on racial voting patterns and then used that data to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
Black people are far more likely than white people to benefit from ease-of-voting initiatives like early voting and proactive preregistration.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene.
Why is this racist?
Think about your right to bear arms. You may be among those who believe the government shouldn’t be allowed to place burdens on your right to bear arms – burdens like registration, permitting or limitations on what kinds of guns you can own.
We should think about voting rights the same way. Every U.S. citizen has the fundamental right to vote – it could be considered our most important constitutional right. The government shouldn’t have the right to place burdens on this right – especially when those burdens fall harder on minority groups. Requiring voters to have a photo ID places a real burden on people who can’t afford the price of the ID or who have other concrete difficulties in obtaining one. The people who suffer most from those burdens are African-Americans.
Therefore, even if the North Carolina legislature was trying to place the burden on likely Democratic voters, as opposed to Blacks, specifically, a voter ID requirement has an unfair disparate impact upon Blacks.
Of course, this could be solved with a free, easy-to-obtain national ID. Maybe you’re comfortable with that?