A federal court has ruled in favor of North Carolina in a lawsuit challenging the state's 2013 voting rights law as discriminatory.
U.S. district judge Thomas Schroeder ruled against the Justice Department, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, and named voters who claimed the law was passed to discriminate against poor and minority voters in violation of the Constitution and Voting Rights Act, The Associated Press reported.
Among other things, the law now requires voters who go to a polling place to show an accepted form of photo identification, like a driver's license. It also eliminated same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting. And the number of early-voting days was cut.
Judge Schroeder acknowledged that there are socioeconomic disparities that affect the state's minorities.
But ultimately, he wrote in a 485-page opinion, the plaintiffs “failed to show that these disparities will have materially adverse effects on the ability of minority voters to cast a ballot and effectively exercise the electoral franchise.” He noted that there were "a multitude of voting and registration options available in the State," and that 2014 turnout data show increased participation among African Americans.
In a statement, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who was a defendant in the case, suggested voting is as prone to abuse as cough syrup, and that the law was thus necessary.
“Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and thankfully a federal court has ensured our citizens will have the same protection for their basic right to vote,” McCrory said in a prepared statement.
Schroeder acknowledged that actual instances of voter fraud were rare, but said that the U.S. Supreme Court had decided that since it could occur, and could have an adverse impact on close elections, such protections were necessary.
The plaintiffs plan to appeal, The AP reported. Penda Hair, an attorney for the NAACP, said the law "targets the provisions that once made North Carolina among the states with the highest turnout in the nation," The AP said:
This progress was especially clear among African-American and Latino voters, who came to rely on measures like early voting, same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional ballots to ensure their voices were heard.
It's worth noting that in a lawsuit challenging Kansas' voting laws, which now require full proof of citizenship, the American Civil Liberties Union says that voting registration in the state is now in "chaos." ABC reports that the group says approximately two-thirds of new voter registration applications submitted during a three-week period in February are on hold.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.