A federal judge refused Friday to block North Carolina’s photo identification requirement to vote in person from taking effect with the March 15 primary elections. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroder’s ruling denying the preliminary injunction motion of the state NAACP and allied voters likely ensures that voter ID will be implemented for the first time on schedule. A trial on whether the ID law is legal will be held Jan. 25 and last several days. The Republican-led General Assembly passed an elections overhaul law in 2013 containing the mandate but deferred its start until the first election in 2016 to give people time to learn about the requirement and to obtain one of several forms of qualifying ID. The law has been in the courts ever since, including three federal lawsuits that have been consolidated into one case.
Last June, the legislature altered the photo ID mandate to allow more people who had trouble obtaining an ID card to successfully vote by filling out paperwork and presenting alternate identifying information. GOP Gov. Pat McCrory signed both laws.
Schroeder wrote Friday that NAACP lawyers have failed to show their clients surely will win at trial on allegations the photo ID requirement is unconstitutionally burdensome on minority groups and intentionally discriminatory. These allegations, he said, are weighed against a broad effort by elections officials to tell voters about the amended ID requirement through letters, radio and television ads, and election worker training.
The NAACP plaintiffs, Schroeder wrote, have failed to clearly demonstrate how the state’s education efforts “have failed to prepare North Carolina voters for the photo ID law. Quite the opposite. Changing course in midstream will likely serve to confuse voters as to the state of the law.”