A federal judge has upheld North Carolina’s voter ID law in a ruling posted Monday evening. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder issued a 485-page ruling dismissing all claims in the challenge to the state’s sweeping 2013 election law overhaul. Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, also upheld portions of the 2013 law that cut the number of days people could vote early, eliminated same-day registration and voting and prohibits people from casting a ballot outside their precinct. The decision comes nearly three months after a trial on the ID portion of the law. Schroeder noted that North Carolina had “become progressive nationally” by permitting absentee voting, having early voting for 17 days before the Election Day, a lengthy registration period, out of precinct voting on Election Day and a pre-registration program for 16-year-olds. “In 2013, North Carolina retrenched,” Schroeder said in his opinion. Ultimately, though, Schroeder said the state had provided “legitimate state interests” in making the changes and the challengers failed to demonstrate that the law was unconstitutional.
“This ruling further affirms that requiring a photo ID in order to vote is not only common-sense, it’s constitutional,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement. “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.”
In reaching the decision released on Monday, Schroeder conducted a two-part trial that spanned over 21 days in July and this past January. He considered the testimony of 21 expert witnesses and 112 other witnesses, and more than 25,000 pages that are part of the record. The ruling won swift condemnation from civil rights organizations that challenged the three-year-old changes to North Carolina’s voting process.
“The sweeping barriers imposed by this law undermine voter participation and have an overwhelmingly discriminatory impact on African-Americans,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “This ruling does not change that reality. We are already examining an appeal.” An appeal is likely, and many expect the U.S. Supreme Court to be the final arbiter of the constitutionality of a law that has been monitored by many.