Monday, August 01, 2016

ELECTIONS - Impact of Ruling on Voter ID Laws

"Impact of appeals court ruling against No. Carolina voter I.D.  laws" PBS NewsHour 7/29/2016


SUMMARY:  A federal appeals court has struck North Carolina's stringent voting rules that, among other things, required voters to show I.D. before voting.  “The new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision," the judges said.  The Justice Department and the NAACP had sued the state's legislature.  William Brangham talks with Kareem Crayton, Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now, another major ruling about voting laws that could impact the upcoming election.

A federal appeals court today struck down several of North Carolina's voting rules, ruling that they were intentionally designed to discriminate against black voters.

William Brangham has the latest.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Before we get to the ruling, a bit of background.

Three years ago, the GOP-controlled legislature in North Carolina changed the voting rules in their state.  They passed stricter voter I.D. requirements, and cut back on things like early voting and same-day voter registration.  Those were reforms Democrats had put in place years before.

But today's ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said that those changes discriminated against black voters.  The court said — quote — “The new provisions target African-Americans with almost surgical precision,” and that these voting rules impose cures for problems that didn't exist.

Joining me now to wade through all the implications of all this is Kareem Crayton.  He is a visiting professor of law at Vanderbilt University.

Professor Crayton, thank you.

This is a very sweeping ruling by the court today.  The court basically argued that the state of North Carolina intentionally discriminated against voters.  I mean, that's a pretty rare finding, isn't it?

KAREEM CRAYTON, Vanderbilt University:  That's true.

In the modern era, most of these cases get litigated under a concern about the effects of the law, whether they were disproportionately affecting one group or the other.

This is one where the court went so far as to say that the purposes for which this law was adopted were those that prohibited — were prohibited by law, that they were racially discriminatory and targeting African-Americans in a way that the law doesn't permit.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  What was it specifically that the court found so troubling?

KAREEM CRAYTON:  Well, there were a number of circumstances under which this law was adopted that raised some serious suspicions.

First, there was the adoption of the law on the heels of a United States Supreme Court ruling, Shelby County vs. Holder, which had a number of protections against any discrimination or to allow for any discrimination protections for African-Americans, and North Carolina quickly rushed through this statute.

In addition to that, the legislature had information in front of it identifying those avenues for participation that African-Americans disproportionately tended to take advantage of.  And when you look at the kinds of things that the new law prescribed or restricted, they really cleverly matched up with those areas, those avenues that African-Americans used more often than not.

And I think the selectivity, of these restrictions ultimately raised the specter of discriminatory intent.  So, taking all of that into account, in addition to the fact, of course, that North Carolina has a pretty long history of discrimination with respect to race, and the court found more recent evidence of discrimination in the redistricting cases, this court was willing to say that there was a pretty strong claim that the purposes for this statute were some of the same considerations that were behind the 14th Amendment's prohibition of assuring that states shouldn't take race into account in creating new laws.

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