Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Issues Ruling on Voter ID Injunction: Photo Voter ID Still Enjoined in NC and NC NAACP & Legal Team Will Continue Fight For Justice
Raleigh, NC- On December 31, 2019, the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina granted Plaintiffs North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, Greensboro NAACP, High Point NAACP, Moore County NAACP, Stokes County NAACP, and Winston-Salem Forsyth County NAACP’s motion for a preliminary injunction in NAACP v. Cooper, stopping the State Defendants from implementing Senate Bill 824, which sought to re-impose a strict voter photo ID requirement in North Carolina, for the primary and general election of 2020.
Today, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the decision of the District Court. The Fourth Circuit panel held that, in granting the preliminary injunction, the Honorable Judge Biggs of the Middle District had incorrectly relied on past intentionally racially discriminatory actions of the legislature, including the fact that a very similar group of Legislators passed a 2013 voter ID law (H.B. 589), which was found by this Court to have discriminated against Black voters with “surgical precision.”
However, this preliminary ruling does not mean that the state of North Carolina is now authorized to implement its proposed strict photo voter ID requirement. The injunction from a state case challenging S.B. 824 (Holmes v. Moore) remains in place. Both the Holmes matter and NAACP v. Cooper are set to go to trial in 2021 for a final resolution on the merits.
Attorney Irv Joyner, counsel representing the NC NAACP plaintiffs, made the following statement today: “NC NAACP is reviewing this decision and we are considering all appellate options. We steadfastly believe that the Honorable Judge Biggs’s findings and determinations were correct at the preliminary injunction phase. Nonetheless, under the reasoning of the decision today, NC NAACP Plaintiffs’ evidence will also prevail at trial on the full merits and we look forward to the fight for justice ahead.”
Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, President of the NC NAACP speaking on behalf of plaintiffs, shared the determination to bring about a final victory: “There is no room for racially discriminatory law under our Constitution and under the Voting Rights Act. The NC NAACP will not rest until we have vindicated fully the rights of African Americans, the Latinx community, and the most vulnerable in this state to access the sacred right to vote. We will challenge every barrier placed deliberately in the path of the people of North Carolina to express our fundamental right to the ballot. This is a moral and legal imperative for us, and it is an evergreen priority. Our fight continues no matter the makeup of any court or any one decision, good or bad, on the journey to free and fair political participation.”
SB 824 is being challenged on the grounds that the law was passed with a discriminatory intent and will produce discriminatory results on African-American and Latinx voters. The law is being challenged under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. S.B. 824 requires registered voters to show one of a limited number of photo identification cards in order to cast a ballot and have it counted in a North Carolina election. This requirement will disproportionately injure African American and Latinx voters, who are less likely than other members of the electorate to possess the required forms of identification and who also face disproportionate burdens in obtaining such identification. As a result, African American and Latinx voters are more likely than other North Carolina voters to have their votes denied, diluted, or abridged by S.B. 824.
The NC NAACP, represented in this matter by Attorney Irv Joyner, Forward Justice, Arnold & Porter, and TroyGould intend to continue the fight against this law in order to ensure equity for all.