The Voter ID Battle in North Carolina Takes a New Turn

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The strategies for minority voter suppression in the United States are a palpable reality. From long-standing gerrymandering to campaigns of intimidation, underprivileged communities have always been bypassed in one way or another in the country. Especially since Donald Trump’s presidential victory in 2016, where the “illegal vote” campaign took on a different color.

Just one month after his inauguration, Trump promised a“major investigation into voter fraud,” after ensuring the existence of “millions of illegal ballots.”

Despite the fact that his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got almost three million more votes, Trump became the new U.S. president thanks to the Electoral College vote and by prevailing in so-called swing states, according to the BBC.

Trump echoed in his statements a decades-long campaign by the Republican Party to impose the voter ID law, where people are required to provide some form of official identification in order to exercise their right to vote. The argument, although weak and rejected by academic experts, is that there is electoral fraud in the country.

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“Only American citizens should vote in American elections. Which is why the time has come for voter ID, like everything else. You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card,” President Trump said at a political rally in 2018.

For those who see the bigger picture, the strategy directly affects minority communities who are less likely to possess photo IDs, such as African Americans and Hispanics, seniors, transgender individuals, and the poor who, coincidentally, reside in districts and states where the Republican effort has been fiercest.

Such is the case in North Carolina, where “GOP leaders in charge of the Legislature have been trying for most of the decade to advance voter ID,” according to NBC News, and where 6.8 million registered voters are frequently and deeply divided between the two parties.

Despite having successfully enforced the law during the 2016 state primary, a federal appeals court overturned parts of the law on the grounds of “intentional racial discrimination.” 

The GOP’s response was to incorporate a constitutional amendment, which faced new lawsuits from lawyers in state and local chapters of the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). The NAACP rejected this mandate imposed by the Republican legislature because it prevented the use of government IDs for public assistance programs, “disproportionately affecting African Americans,” the organization said.

But once again, federal judges have intervened to thwart the perpetuation of discrimination in the electoral system.

Last Thursday, a federal court announced in a short written notice that U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs “will formally block a photo ID requirement scheduled to begin in 2020” and thus be able to suspend enforcement education efforts that were to begin in the coming weeks in preparation for the primaries.

Judge Biggs is expected to publish her full argument in the coming weeks and whether there is a possibility of a law to change the mandate definitively.

Meanwhile, at least 33 other states have some sort of voter ID requirement, and millions of voters are intimidated or simply disqualified from deciding what change they want to see in the country.

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