Federal Appeals court overturns decision striking state voter ID law

This Tuesday, May 2, 2017 photo shows the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals building, the site of a full 15-member court hearing on President Donald Trump's revised travel ban targeting six Muslim-majority countries in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RALEIGH — The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision striking the state’s voter ID law on Wednesday, Dec. 2.

The judges said in a unanimous opinion that “The district court penalized the General Assembly because of who they were, instead of what they did. When discussing the sequence of events leading to the 2018 Voter-ID Law’s enactment, the district court discounted the normalcy of the legislative process to focus on who drafted and passed the law.”

Following a 2018 statewide referendum, the establishment of voter ID was added to the state’s Constitution. A previous effort to implement the measure was ruled unconstitutional by the same appeals panel.

The judges continued, saying, “We do not reverse the district court because it weighed the evidence before it differently than we would. Instead, we reverse because of the fundamental legal errors that permeate the opinion — the flipping of the burden of proof and the failure to provide the presumption of legislative good faith — that irrevocably affected its outcome. We therefore hold that the district court abused its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction.”

Legislative leaders reacted quickly to the decision. N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) said, “Now that a federal appeals court has approved North Carolina’s voter ID law and constitutional amendment, they must be implemented for the next election cycle in our state. If the 2020 elections have taught us anything it is the fact that voting in person with a photo ID is the best way to ensure the integrity of our elections.”

N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) added, “I’m heartened by the Fourth Circuit’s unanimous decision in support of the basic principle of self-governance under the rule of law. When an activist judge overturns the will of millions of North Carolinians who added a voter ID requirement to their own constitution, and rests her lawless opinion on political talking points and ‘fundamental legal errors,’ that’s destabilizing. That is what erodes confidence in government.”

A spokesperson from Sen. Berger’s office said that the the goal to have the requirement in place by the 2022 elections, but the case must also be resolved by the N.C. Court of Appeals before it is enacted.