In closing arguments Monday, North Carolina’s photo ID requirement was described by attorneys for the North Carolina NAACP as a racially discriminatory law that places unconstitutional burdens on blacks and Hispanics. Attorneys representing Gov. Pat McCrory and state elections officials called the change in the law a mere inconvenience, saying it would affect a small group of people. Penda Hair, an attorney for the N.C. NAACP, said evidence presented during the trial clearly shows that the photo ID requirement would make it harder for blacks and Hispanics to cast ballots in this year’s election. It’s undisputed, she said, that blacks disproportionately lack the kinds of photo IDs that they would need to show when they come to the polls.
Moreover, she said, blacks and Hispanics have fewer resources, such as transportation, to overcome obstacles in getting photo ID. Hair said the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles is a dysfunctional organization that places hurdles in front of people trying to get photo IDs, even ones that are supposed to be free. She noted that DMV had issued about 2,100 free IDs in the past two years.
But Thomas Farr, one of the attorneys for the state, told U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder that he heard not one shred of evidence that the photo ID requirement would keep blacks and Hispanics from voting, primarily because the law hasn’t even been implemented yet. The first time it would be enforced would be during the March primaries. “At the end of the day, this is a policy dispute,” he said. “If the federal court can throw out this law, without evidence, then federalism is a dead letter.”