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RALEIGH, NC (AP) – North Carolina judges on Friday struck down the state’s latest photo-voter identification law, agreeing with minority voters that Republicans had imposed racially biased rules as a means to stay in power.

Two of the three trial judges said the December 2018 law was unconstitutional, even though it was designed to implement a voter identification warrant with photo added to the North Carolina Constitution during a referendum a few weeks earlier. They said the law intentionally discriminates against black voters, violating their equal protections.

The law “was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intention to target African-American voters,” wrote Superior Court justices Michael O’Foghludha and Vince Rozier in their 100-page majority opinion.

“Other, less restrictive voter identification laws would have been sufficient to achieve the legitimate non-racial objectives of implementing the constitutional amendment requiring voter identification, deterring fraud, or enhancing voter confidence.”

The majority decision, which followed a three-week trial in April, is now likely before a state appeals court, which previously blocked law enforcement last year while the case was heard. The law remains inapplicable with this decision.

With a similar trial in federal court due in January and another trial in state court now on appeal, it seems more unlikely that a voter identification warrant for in-person and mail-in voting will emerge. produce in the 2022 election.

The ruling reflects “how the Republican-controlled state legislature has unmistakably implemented this legislation to maintain its power by targeting voters of color,” said Allison Riggs, lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

Spokesmen for Republican legislative leaders, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger, did not immediately respond to email requests for comment.

GOP legislative leaders have tried for a decade to require photo ID to vote.

Republicans said voter identification laws were needed to boost public confidence in elections and prevent voter fraud, which remains rare nationwide. But many Democrats see the mandates as attempts to suppress voters.

In July 2016, a federal appeals court overturned several parts of a 2013 election law in North Carolina that included a voter identification mandate, saying GOP lawmakers wrote them with “almost surgical precision. To discourage voting by black voters, who tend to support Democrats.

Lawyers for voters who sued the 2018 law said it suffered from the same racial flaws as the 2013 law – following a long effort by North Carolina officials to weaken the African-American vote in order to retain control of the General Assembly. The 2013 law was briefly applied in the 2016 primary elections.

GOP legislative leaders and their lawyers disagreed, saying the latest ID rules were approved with substantial Democratic support and improved to retain access to ballots while ensuring that only citizens legal can vote.

The categories of eligible identity documents have been significantly broadened compared to the 2013 law to include the identification documents of students and government employees. Free IDs are also available from county election boards or early voting sites, and people without ID can still vote if they fill out a form at the polling station.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Nathaniel Poovey wrote that the passage of the voter identification law is consistent with the state’s constitution, citing his support from several black lawmakers and citizens voting in the constitutional referendum.

“The evidence of competence before this three-judge panel does not suggest that our legislature enacted this law with racially discriminatory intent,” Poovey wrote.

But the majority of the panel decided that the changes did not completely eliminate racial prejudice and permanently blocked the application of the identification law.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about three dozen states have laws requiring or requiring voters to present ID at polling stations, and about half of those states only want ID with Photo.

A provision contained in a sweeping federal election overhaul pushed this year by Congressional Democrats would effectively neutralize state voter identification laws by allowing people without ID to sign a form at the polls instead.

Six voters – five black and one biracial – sued in Wake County court on the same day GOP lawmakers overturned Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto on the 2018 voter identification bill.

During the trial, some of the plaintiffs testified about their difficulties obtaining ID or voting when the previous photo ID law was in effect.

GOP lawyers said all voters would continue to be able to vote under the 2018 law.

The plaintiffs’ case highlighted the analysis of a University of Michigan professor who said black voters are 39% more likely to lack qualified photo ID than voters. white inscribed. The analysis, however, omitted data on some categories of eligible IDs.

Changes to these and other voting procedures in North Carolina once required prior approval from the federal government. But a 2013 US Supreme Court ruling meant that such “preclearance” actions were no longer necessary. The legislature approved the 2013 voter identification law just weeks after the decision.

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