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Lawsuit filed as soon as voter ID becomes law in NC

Within minutes of House lawmakers taking the final vote to implement photo voter ID in North Carolina, six voters filed a lawsuit challenging the measure.

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 824, the measure requiring voters to show a photo ID to cast a ballot, and the House and Senate voted Wednesday to override it. It’s expected a photo ID will be required to vote as early as next fall.

The lawsuit was filed in Wake County Superior Court as soon as the bill became law, as well as a motion requesting a preliminary injunction, which would temporarily stop the measure from taking effect while the case works its way through the courts.

“The North Carolina Constitution provides numerous and inviolable protections for the fundamental right to vote of all its citizens,” said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ). “Just because the North Carolina Constitution now authorizes, with exceptions, the presentation of a picture ID when voting does not mean those other longstanding protections can be ignored or violated.”

SCSJ is representing plaintiffs in the case, along with pro-bono counsel from the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. The voting rights organization also represented plaintiffs who successfully challenged the state’s 2013 monster voter suppression law, which was ultimately struck down by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The lawsuit alleges the SB 824 violates multiple provisions of the state constitution by purposefully discriminating against and disproportionately impacting African-American and American-Indian qualified voters, unduly burdening the fundamental right to vote, creating separate classes of voters and imposing a cost on voting, among other things.

“It is the legislature’s duty to balance competing demands in the State Constitution,” Riggs said. “It has failed miserably in its exercise of balancing the new ID constitutional amendment, which explicitly allows for exceptions, with the numerous other state constitutional demands that have been interpreted to aggressively protect the right to vote. Any legislative scheme that requires voters to present ID when voting must have fail-safe measures to ensure that not one single eligible voter is disenfranchised. Our State Constitution demands it.”

Passing voter ID did not come without robust debate, particularly in the House on Wednesday. Republicans told their colleagues they felt North Carolina voters were scorned by Cooper’s veto, and that they worked diligently and in good faith to pass a reasonable bill. Democrats tried to explain how people would be disenfranchised by the bill and why they were voting against it.

Ultimately the House voted 72-40 to override the veto.

Another voting rights organization, Democracy NC, called SB 824 a poorly-funded measure with complicated requirements and hasty implementation deadlines that will impact real voters — especially communities of color and those most marginalized in politics.

“Lawmakers could have reasonably waited to act until their duly-elected successors were seated,” said Executive Director Tomas Lopez. “They did not: this is a last-ditch effort to shape our voting rules without hearing from those affected. Our collective work now turns to mitigating this law’s harms, especially in communities that have seen first-hand how voting restrictions discourage participation and damage the integrity of the voting process.”

Read the full pending lawsuit here.

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