RICHMOND, Va., July 29 (UPI) -- The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a controversial voter ID law in North Carolina on the grounds it disproportionately targets black voters with "almost surgical precision."
The law passed the North Carolina legislature on a party line vote in the wake of the Supreme Court decision striking down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the case Shelby County, Ala. vs. Holder. A three-judge panel on the Virginia-based Fourth Circuit unanimously decided North Carolina's law served the sole purpose of placing impediments in the path of black voters seeking to exercise their rights.
"Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist," wrote Judge Diana Gribbon Motz.
The law required voters to show photo ID issued by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, a form of identification that black citizens are most likely not to have. It also reduced the number of early voting days from 17 to 10, which the Fourth Circuit noted reduced by half the number of Sundays where traditionally black churches hold "Souls to the Polls" events aimed at increasing voter turnout. The law also eliminated same-day registration and absentee ballot voting, another practice used predominantly by black voters.
The judges noted legislators specifically asked for data on racial voting patterns prior to enacting the law, offering further proof the legislation was aimed at disenfranchising black voters.
"Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and voting in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans," Motz wrote.
The North Carolina legislature is controlled by Republicans and Gov. Pat McCrory, also a Republican, signed the bill into law. The court said data show the overwhelming number of black voters supported Democrats and the rising number of black registered voters had made North Carolina a swing state in presidential elections.
The voter ID law was set to take effect for the first time in 2016.