As we discussed previously, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina upheld North Carolina's voter ID law in a long opinion that thoroughly considered all of the evidence. The decision also upheld a number of procedural election changes that North Carolina made to ensure the integrity of its elections.
The court found that each procedural reform was made for a proper purpose and that turnout increased after the reforms were implemented, contrary to the challengers' position that the reforms were an attempt to suppress voters:
The reforms in question included . . . reducing the number of early voting days from 17 to 10 but extending voting hours; eliminating same-day registration and preregistration by 16- and 17-year-olds; and requiring voters to vote in their assigned precincts. . . .
The claims made by DOJ and the Obama administration’s political allies boiled down to this: all of the reforms were discriminatory, either intentionally or in effect, and would suppress the votes of African-Americans, Hispanics and the young. The judge refused to issue an injunction when the lawsuits were first filed, which left most of the changes in effect for the 2014 election. . . . This wound up severely damaging the plaintiffs’ case, because turnout increased in both the primary and general elections of 2014 — the exact opposite of what the plaintiffs and their experts claimed would happen. . . . As the judge pointed out: “The evidence shows that African Americans have fared better in terms of registration and turnout rates in 2014, after the new law was implemented, than in 2010, when the old provisions were in place.” . . .
The court also made another important point. The judge said that “the fact that voting can almost always be made easier does not render a State’s failure to do so, or a State’s repeal of a convenience or ‘failsafe,’ unlawful or unconstitutional per se.” With “every relaxation of the rules there is often an attendant trade-off or effect on verification and election integrity. The State demonstrated as much here.”
The plaintiffs, including the Justice Department, opposed North Carolina’s election system as changed by the 2013 reform law because “they preferred one that they say was even more convenient” than the very liberal system the state already has. Different degrees of “convenience” do not constitute a violation of the law or the Constitution. And the plaintiffs’ claims that North Carolina’s action was the result of “vestiges of historical official discrimination is rebutted by the facts.”
The court's opinion was also a victory for federalism and the ability of states to manage their elections, as provided by the Constitution:
The challengers failed on every front. According to the Court, the challengers inferred racial intent where there was no evidence of such. In fact, North Carolina acted rationally and responsibly in enacting the election changes. Specifically, the legislature relied upon extensive evidence . . . .
It is important to realize that the court preserved the balance between state and federal power. States have the power under the Constitution to run their own elections. Some powerful interests want that to change. But the Founders intended that such policy decisions be left up to the branch of government closest to the people.
The Founders wisely gave states the power to manage their elections, as the states are more responsive to the needs and desires of their people than the federal government. States devote a tremendous amount of resources to election administration and make hard decisions about how to ensure the integrity of elections while providing eligible voters the opportunity to vote. This decision is an important step in protecting states from constant litigation and charges of racism from the left when they make prudent decisions about election administration.
The decision has been appealed to the Fourth Circuit, which has granted expedited review of the case.