By Nathan Ham
North Carolina’s voter identification law took another step back on Tuesday after a North Carolina appeals court put a temporary stop to the law, siding with those that feel like the law discriminates against African American voters.
Voters could already vote in the upcoming March 3 primary in North Carolina without photo identification. With this court ruling, the same may be true for November’s general election, depending on how long the court case is drawn out.
In the ruling, the opinion of the court stated that the law “speaks more of an intention to target African American voters rather than a desire to comply with the newly created Amendment in a fair and balanced manner” and that the defendants have been unable to show that the law “would have been enacted in its current form irrespective of any alleged underlying discriminatory intent.”
Reactions from both sides of the political spectrum quickly poured in following the court’s ruling.
“Today, the state Court of Appeals has chosen to unanimously side with democracy. This Republican legislature has repeatedly targeted African Americans with surgical precision to keep them from making their voices heard. North Carolina Democrats remain committed to protecting every citizen’s right to vote and maintain that voter suppression laws like this disenfranchise people of color by unnecessarily creating new hurdles to the ballot box. We need to make it easier to vote – not harder,” said Wayne Goodwin, the North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman.
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) issued a statement as well, saying “North Carolinians know that General Assembly leaders will continue to fight on their behalf for a commonsense voter ID law that they chose to put in our state constitution, and we will not be deterred by judicial attempts to suppress the people’s voice in the democratic process.”
Speaker Moore’s office also pointed out that the voter ID law allows any eligible voter to assert a “reasonable impediment” at the polls for why they do not have an ID. They can still cast a provisional ballot even without an ID.
Acceptable IDs include student identification cards, driver’s licenses, passports, military and veteran IDs, state employee cards, voter cards and Native American tribal cards. The law would also provide a free state-issued ID for voting purposes, should the law end up making it through further court challenges.
Currently, a total of 34 states have some form of a voter ID law, according to Speaker Moore.
Primary Voting Reminder
With primary election season in full swing, North Carolina voters who are registered as Unaffiliated can vote in their choice of three Primaries.
Unaffiliated voters may choose to vote a Democratic, Libertarian, or Republican ballot in this year’s Presidential Preference Primary.
Watauga County has 19,652 Unaffiliated voters, making it the largest group of voters in the county by over 6,000 voters.
When presenting to vote, Unaffiliated voters will be asked which one of the three ballot styles they would like to vote.
Should there be a Second Primary or Runoff Primary, Unaffiliateds will need to stay with the same Party’s ballot until the General Election in November, where there is only one ballot for all Watauga County voters.
The Constitutional and Green Parties did not open their Primary to Unaffiliated voters.
The weather in Watauga County this time of year can be very unpredictable, so no matter how you are registered to vote, the Watauga County Board of Elections encourages voters to take advantage of the seven early voting sites around the county.
On Thursday, the Watauga County Board of Elections announced that the early voting sites will close at 5 p.m. due to the snowy weather conditions that have arrived in the High Country. Early voting will resume at 10 a.m. Friday morning.
For more information or questions, please call the Board of Elections at 828-265-8061.