A judge in North Carolina has struck down two amendments to the state’s constitution adopted during last November’s elections, including a voter ID requirement, citing an “illegally constituted General Assembly [that] does not represent the people of North Carolina.”
Wake County Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins said the extent of gerrymandering in the state means that lawmakers had no business trying to amend the state’s constitution. Collins issued his ruling, which also rejected a cap on the state income tax rate, on Friday afternoon.
The voter ID amendment was adopted with 55.5% of the vote last year, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. North Carolina Republicans have been trying to implement a voter ID law for years as part of an ongoing effort to suppress African American voters in the state.
In 2011, the General Assembly redrew more than two-thirds of legislative districts for both the state House and Senate. In doing so, the Assembly “unconstitutionally and impermissibly considered race in drawing the 2011 legislative maps,” the judge noted.
In 2016, a federal district court ruled that “race was the predominant factor motivating the drawing of all challenged districts.” That court struck down 28 gerrymandered districts. The U.S. Supreme Court later affirmed the ruling the following year.
The state General Assembly was given another chance to redraw the districts, but the lower court found that little had changed in the new maps, which the court said also were unconstitutional.
In its last two days in session in 2018, the Assembly passed bills to put six constitutional amendment proposals on the ballot. The voter ID requirement was among them.
North Carolina Republicans had tried to implement voter ID laws before, including one that was passed in 2013. That law was struck down in 2016 by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that it illegally targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision,” according to the News & Observer.
Last August, the North Carolina NAACP and the group Clean Air Carolina sued Assembly leaders and state elections and ethics officials over the proposed amendments.
On Friday, Judge Collins noted:
Members of the NC NAACP, who include African-American and Latino voters in North Carolina, and the NAACP itself are directly harmed by the proposed Voter ID constitutional amendment. Members will be effectively denied the right to vote or otherwise deprived of meaningful access to the political process as a result of the proposed Voter ID requirement. The proposed Voter ID amendment will also impose costs and substantial and undue burdens on the right to vote for those and other members.
Following the ruling, NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman issued a statement saying, “We are delighted that the acts of the previous majority, which came to power through the use of racially discriminatory maps, have been checked,” the News & Observer reported. “The prior General Assembly’s attempt to use its ill-gotten power to enshrine a racist photo voter ID requirement in the state constitution was particularly egregious, and we applaud the court for invalidating these attempts at unconstitutional overreach.”
GOP lawmakers said they would appeal the ruling.