Editorials

4th Circuit ruling exposes the real N.C. voting fraud

The Observer editorial board

A three-judge panel has struck down a 2013 N.C. elections law.
A three-judge panel has struck down a 2013 N.C. elections law. Charlotte Observer

We knew. Deep down, most of us knew.

We knew that North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law, like similar laws across the country, was not truly about voter fraud, but voter suppression.

We knew Republicans were less interested in the integrity of elections than in building obstacles for their opponents’ supporters.

We knew. Some Republicans even admitted it. And last week, in North Carolina, they got called on it.

On Friday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down our state’s election law with a blistering ruling that laid bare the “discriminatory intent” of our lawmakers. That’s right. A three-judge panel said that N.C. Republicans intended to discriminate against black citizens.

The judges then described, with evidence, exactly how lawmakers did it:

Before enacting the 2013 law, lawmakers requested data on the use, by race, of several voting practices, according to the ruling. Lawmakers learned, for example, that blacks disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID, those issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, but did have other kinds of photo IDs.

With that info, lawmakers proceeded to change an existing N.C. voting bill so that it excluded many forms of ID blacks did possess, while making acceptable the kinds of ID whites possessed most.

Lawmakers also found in the research that blacks used early voting at greater rates than whites, and that in particular, blacks disproportionately used the first seven days of early voting. After getting this info, the General Assembly killed the first seven days of early voting.

And so it went, for same day registration and preregistration and provisional voting.

“Surgical precision,” is how the judges described it.

They knew. And they are not the only ones. They join the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which also shredded Republicans’ voter fraud fallacy earlier this month in striking down Texas’s voter ID law.

In North Carolina, Republicans issued an appalling response. In a statement Friday, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said they wondered if the judges, who are Democrats, were trying to “steal the election” for Democrats Roy Cooper and Hillary Clinton. That’s an incredible finger to point at our country’s judicial branch. Berger and Moore should be ashamed.

The Republicans also said they will appeal the ruling. It’s doubtful the full 4th will rule differently than the three-judge panel. As for the U.S. Supreme Court? Used to be the John Roberts-led court didn’t like changing voting laws so close to elections, for fear of confusing voters. But now, with the Republican-led U.S. Senate refusing to fill the vacant seat that was Antonin Scalia’s, Republicans are faced with a 4-4 court that likely won’t provide relief, at least before November.

That means North Carolinians will face fewer obstacles to voting this year. That’s especially true for the black voters Republicans wanted to block all along.

We knew. So did those lawmakers. And now, the 4th Circuit affirmed it: The fraud we needed to be protected from is what happened in the General Assembly.

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