After federal officials struck down a North Carolina law requiring photo identification to vote, local political leaders had mixed reactions about the decision.
On Friday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, based out of Virginia, declared that the measures violated the Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act by targeting black voters.
“Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for that did not exist,” the opinion states.
A three-judge panel stated that “the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history” after rewriting voting laws in 2013. The recent decision was another ruling against voter ID laws, along with those in Texas and Wisconsin.
Tomeka Blue, chairwoman of the Sampson County Democratic Party, said it was an amazing victory for the voters of North Carolina.
“We thank the key leaders that led this courageous fight,” she said. “The changes will allow voters multiple opportunities to register and cast their votes for the upcoming 2016 election.”
Blue said voters will no longer have to fear being turned away or having their votes not counted.
“We are extremely happy about this decision and are looking forward to the business of educating voters on candidates and not on voter ID rules,” she said.
Republican lawmakers believe the law will prevent voter fraud. Daniel Ruggles, chair of the Sampson County Republican Party, also supports showing ID.
“It’s liberal activist judges legislating from the bench instead of upholding laws,” he said.
Ruggles also stressed how the ID situation should not be a problem, since it’s required with several other situations such as banking, cashing a check or purchasing cigarettes.
“It’s common sense that the voter ID is protecting people’s right to vote,” Ruggles said.
While mentioning the upcoming election, Ruggles mentioned how the ID requirement can stop deceit on voter rosters and certain precincts.
“It’s entitling people to their vote and proving they’re the ones casting their vote,” he said.
Ruggles also brought up how voter information is easily accessible online for people looking to misuse the voting system.
“I can use that information to go to their precinct, use their full name, address and vote,” he said. “Voter ID is a good thing and you need ID for everything else. When you have the right to vote, it needs to be protected and it is the best way to protect your rights so when you come in to vote, they know it’s you.”
He continued and said that the majority of people have a valid ID. If not, they can get one from a government or state agency.
“If you find that one person (who doesn’t have one), they can go to the DMV and get a free ID,” Ruggles said.
The mandate began in March and required voters to show qualifying ID. Voters facing “reasonable impediments” were allowed to cast a provisional ballot. Voting laws were rewritten in 2013 by the General Assembly a couple years after Republicans took control of both legislative chambers for the first time in a century. According to Associated Press reports, state legislators imposed the requirement, reducing early voting and eliminating same-day registrations and voters’ ability to cast out-of-precinct provisional ballots in their home counties. The appeals courts stated the measures were used by minority voters, who also were more than likely to lack a qualifying ID and blocked the contested provisions of the law.
The U.S. Justice Department, state NAACP and League of Women Voters sued over the restrictions. Supporters of the ruling believe it should increase black and Hispanic participation on Election Day, which sees contested races for U.S. Senate and governor.
Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch applauded the ruling. But many Republicans, including Gov. Pat McCrory, did not have those same feelings.
“Photo IDs are required to purchase Sudafed, cash a check, board an airplane or enter a federal court room,” stated McCrory in a news release. “Yet, three Democratic judges are undermining the integrity of our elections while also maligning our state. We will immediately appeal and also review other potential options.”
Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both North Carolina Republicans, also issued statements about appealing. But, according to reports, it’s unlikely that an evenly divided and short-handed Supreme Court would reverse the decision before November.
Although Blue is pleased with the response, she emphasized that some rules are still in place. According to the North Carolina Democratic Party: absentee ballots require two witnesses or one, if it’s a notary public; candidates will be listed on the ballot in alphabetical order by party, beginning with the party that won the most recent gubernatorial election; and voters cannot cast a straight-party ballot.
Sampson County NAACP officials are awaiting for an official response from the organization. According to an Associated Press report, the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said the ruling was “a vindication of our constitutional and moral critique and challenge to the constitutional extremism of our government.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.