A bill filed by Republican legislative leaders last week would let voters decide whether to add a constitutional amendment to require photo IDs at the polls. A federal court shot down a previous attempt at Voter ID laws in North Carolina. If the question gets on the ballot this fall and passes, would it stand up to a legal challenge? Legal experts say there’s nothing inherently unconstitutional about Voter ID laws – 34 states have them. The issue is the motivation behind the laws. “What makes them unconstitutional is if they’re adopted with an intent to discriminate against a particular racial group, or racial groups,” Duke University Law School professor Guy Charles said.
That was the main issue two years ago when the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law. A three-judge panel said the law appeared to suppress voting by African Americans, who tend to vote Democratic and may be less likely to have government photo IDs.
To University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, the question of intent remains, even if it’s a referendum on a constitutional amendment to require Voter IDs.
“The Fourth Circuit was very critical, talking about targeting African-American voters with surgical precision,” Tobias said. “And if the same panel were to hear it, I think the court might be inclined, or somewhat suspicious, of the motives of the North Carolina legislators.”