North Carolina voters might not have to present identification at the polls during the March primaries, but we likely will in November's general election. But, as with every voter ID issue in the Tar Heel State, that could change.
Voters approved a state constitutional amendment mandating voter ID. The legislature passed a law establishing the framework of how that would work. The Governor vetoed. The legislature overrode the veto. The NC NAACP sued. And a Democrat judge blocked the law from taking effect.
As Andy Jackson, Election Policy Analyst at the Civitas Institute, correctly concludes: "District Court Judge Loretta Biggs issued a preliminary injunction against North Carolina’s voter ID law based on an unreasonable standard."
So, Biggs was confronted with legal language that had already been ruled constitutional in other federal court cases. That language was part of a bill implementing a voter ID requirement to the NC Constitution that voters approved by a comfortable margin. In addition, she was forced to acknowledge on pages 47-53 that the plaintiffs are not likely to succeed in their argument that North Carolina’s voter ID law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act since federal courts have already approved similar laws from Virginia and South Carolina.
Biggs attempts to get around that by claiming “evidence that discrimination was a motivating factor in this case means that any similarities between S.B. 824 and the voter ID laws of South Carolina and Virginia are of limited value” (page 44). Her evidence was that most Democrats in the General Assembly opposed the passage of SB 824. Briggs conveniently ignores that the ID law was subsequently liberalized in large bipartisanvotes in HB 646 earlier last year.
(NOTE: I opposed HB 646 because I believe it unnecessarily weakens the verification process for student and government worker IDs.)
In short, we are left with the simple fact that Briggs would have found any voter ID bill passed by North Carolina’s General Assembly discriminatory, regardless of the intent of the majority of legislators or the language of the bill itself. That is an unreasonable standard that will not survive appeal.
Republicans called for an appeal of the ruling. But that would require the Democratic Attorney General to do so. Kari Travis, Assistant Managing Editor at Carolina Journal, says Josh Stein had little choice:
N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein was always going to face backlash from Republicans over North Carolina’s voter ID, regardless of how he handled the legal battle, some experts say.
The issue is just one play in a larger political ballgame.
On Jan. 2, Stein, a Democrat, announced he would appeal a Dec. 31 court order blocking the state’s voter ID law. But there was a catch. To avoid voter confusion in the primary election, Stein said, the N.C. Department of Justice would wait until after March 3 to act.
The announcement kindled an indignant response from Republicans, who were urging Stein to immediately appeal.
At his blog, PoliticsNC, Democratic consultant Thomas Mills says Stein is just doing his job and progressives should "get off his back" and stop criticizing him:
As for Stein, he’s always been a strong opponent of voter ID laws. He voted against the original voter ID law when he was a state senator. He’s long advocated for voting rights and comes about his commitment honestly. He was born into the fight for equality. His father, Adam Stein, is one of the state’s most prominent civil rights attorneys.
Opponents of voter ID laws should be happy that Stein is handling the case instead of some right-wing lawyer hired by the legislature. He’s got a staff of competent lawyers who are also public servants. They will argue the case on its merits and not with some ideological agenda. That’s what they’re hired to do and we should be glad they are there.
I'll point out that the same judge in this case denied the Legislature's request to join the lawsuit - leaving only Democratic officials as the defendants. This opens the door for the "sue and settle" strategy to be implemented - allowing political allies to agree on a deal and get court approval while excluding the opposition.
Again, it's NC voter ID... so, all of this could change tomorrow.
Pete's Prep: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020
- WNCT: "More than 100 spectators, including Governor Roy Cooper and Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon, gathered in Raleigh on Tuesday to witness North America’s first demonstration of an autonomous air taxi. "
- Carolina Journal: "If Gov. Cooper truly believes North Carolina’s tax burden is too low, shouldn’t he stop making incentive deals?"
- Jon Sanders: "there are many, many questions about settlement agreement on coal-ash cleanup between Gov. Roy Cooper’s Department of Environmental Quality, environmental groups, Duke Energy, and not ratepayers. This was all set into motion by DEQ’s sudden April 2019 order to Duke to excavate the remaining coal-ash basins."
- Smoky Mountain News: "Although Democrats still hold a substantial registration advantage over each of the other five registration categories, it’s shrinking — and fast. As of Jan. 1, 2020, Democrats made up 36.6 percent of the state's 6.8 million registered voters, according to State Board of Elections registration data. Unaffiliated voters trailed by about four points, followed by Republicans at 30 percent."
- Wall Street Journal: "The cancer death rate in the U.S. dropped 2.2% from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop ever recorded, according to the latest report from the American Cancer Society, continuing a longstanding decline that began a quarter-century ago. The drop is largely driven by progress against lung cancer, though the most rapid declines in the report occurred in melanoma. Advances in treatment are helping improve survival rates in the two cancers, experts say."