[JURIST] A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Friday struck down [opinion, PDF] several provisions of North Carolina’s House Bill 589 (HB 589) [text, PDF], most notably its voter identification requirements. In its decision to annul the voter ID provision of the statute, as well as provisions eliminating early voting, pre-registration same-day registration, and out-of-precinct voting, the court stated that the legislation was “passed with racially discriminatory intent.” The panel further explained that it, unlike the lower district court, was unconvinced by the argument that the statute’s enactment was “the innocuous back-and-forth of routine partisan struggle.” Instead the panel suggested that the Republic-controlled state-legislature was motivated to enact HB 589 after an “unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with troubled racial history and racially polarized voting.” While the decision was unanimous, one justice disagreed with the decision to permanently enjoin the voter identification provision, expressing belief that the “reasonable impediment” exception provided ample protection against any potential discrimination. The decision overturns a district court decision [JURIST report] upholding HB 589 in April.
Voting rights have been the subject of numerous legal challenges across the US, particularly in a presidential election year. Last month a federal judge ruled that Ohio’s elimination of the state’s early in-person voting [JURIST report] was unconstitutional and in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Earlier in May a federal judge ruled that Virginia’s voter identification law, which requires that voters have a valid form of ID either before voting or within three days after voting, is constitutional [JURIST report]. Also in May a federal judge ruled that Kansas cannot require voters to provide proof of citizenship [JURIST report] when registering to vote. In February the Maryland Senate overrode a veto by Governor Larry Hogan to pass a bill that will allow felons to vote [JURIST report] before they complete parole or probation.