A federal judge ruled Friday that North Carolina’s photo ID requirement for voting will be in effect for the March 15 primary election. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder denied a motion filed by the North Carolina NAACP for a preliminary injunction, saying that the plaintiffs had failed to prove the photo ID would place an undue burdens on blacks and Hispanics and had failed to prove they would likely prevail on the merits of their case in a trial set for Jan. 25. The changes that Republican state legislators made to the photo ID requirement last year, particularly allowing voters without an ID to sign a “reasonable impediment declaration” and then cast a provisional ballot, played a key role in Schroeder’s decision. “When the State did not have a reasonable impediment exception, NAACP Plaintiffs claimed the burden imposed on the socioeconomically disadvantaged was too severe,” he wrote in his decision. “Now that the State has sought to accommodate these voters with the reasonable impediment exception, Plaintiffs claim the exception swallows the rule and that the State need not have a photo ID requirement.”
Schroeder said the reasonable impediment exception significantly reduced any burdens that the state NAACP believed minorities and poor people would encounter.
Schroeder also chided the NAACP. “They declined this court’s urging to try the photo ID issues in a September 2015 trial and chose not to move to enjoin implementation of the photo-ID requirement, including the reasonable impediment provision, earlier,” he wrote in his opinion. “Rather, they waited until now, on the eve of the January 25, 2016 trial, to do so. They have been less than diligent in pursuing their rights in this regard. Indeed, even now, and considering the significant efforts underway to conduct the March 2016 primary election, NAACP Plaintiffs present substantial questions about whether this court could even act.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs tried to reach a settlement with the state on the photo ID requirement to avoid a trial but to no avail.