"WINSTON-SALEM, NC – On Friday, Oct. 23, a federal judge denied a request to dismiss a legal challenge to North Carolina’s photo ID provision of the monster voter suppression law, H.B. 589. Presiding over the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Judge Thomas D. Schroeder declined to affirm the state’s position that the photo ID portion of the law was moot, stating there is declarative relief and remedies potentially available if the plaintiffs prove the law disproportionately and adversely impacts African American and Latino voters. The defendants unsuccessfully argued that their last minute maneuver to the law, passed on the eve of the July 2015 full trial on the merits of the case, made moot the claim against the requirement voters show strict photo ID in order to vote. In refusing to dismiss the state’s motion, the photo ID provision of the law will now go to trial in January 2016. The challenge to H.B. 589 – including the photo ID provision – was brought by the national racial justice organization Advancement Project, the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, LLP and attorneys Irving Joyner and Adam Stein on behalf of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and individual plaintiffs. The groups released the following statement in response:
“We are pleased with Judge Schroeder’s decision to deny the state’s motion to dismiss the photo ID provision of the law,” said Attorney Irving Joyner. “We remain concerned about the abbreviated timetable to prepare for trial, a timetable that exists solely because of the gamesmanship of the North Carolina General Assembly who waited until the dawn of trial to slightly amend its discriminatory photo ID requirement. Even with the changes, and after nearly two years of telling voters they would need the narrowly prescribed photo ID to vote, North Carolina officials have yet to articulate their strategy for educating the public, poll workers and other state officials on what is needed to vote. As a result, the people of North Carolina are left in legislative-limbo by not knowing the rules for voting as well as the options available ahead of a March 2016 primary and the general election.”
“North Carolina’s voter ID requirement remains an undue and unlawful burden on voters of color,” said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. “Yet Gov. McCrory and the legislature continue striving to suppress the vote. Their desperate attempt to mask the discrimination embedded in this law by altering – yet not removing – the photo identification requirement on the eve of our trial shows that they knew it would not withstand the weight of constitutional review. They wanted the photo ID provision of the law dismissed because they don’t want the court to focus on their discriminatory intent to deny and abridge African American & Latino voters’ right to vote.”
“Any practice that results in African Americans and Latinos having less access to the vote than other members of the electorate is a violation of the Voting Rights Act,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair. “North Carolina’s photo ID requirement does just that. Just as poll taxes and literacy tests are illegal under Section 2, photo ID requirements create unfair barriers to voters of color, who are less likely to have one of the narrowly prescribed and acceptable forms of ID.”
“Even with the much touted amendments to the law, voters of color will continue to be disproportionately burdened,” said Attorney Daniel Donovan of Kirkland & Ellis, LLP. “This is a violation not only of the constitution, but also of commonly held values of fairness and freedom to participate fully in our nation’s democracy. Elections should be free, fair and accessible to all, and we look forward to arguing these and other points during trial next year.”
“We are gratified Judge Schroeder recognized the challenges inherent in the photo ID provision, and decided against dismissing the photo claim,” said Advancement Project Senior Attorney Denise Lieberman. “As long as photo ID is on the books, it will have a chilling and discriminatory impact on African Americans and Latinos.”
While the trial on the other provisions of H.B. 589 was held in July 2015, a decision in that portion of the case is pending."
- A Press Release