WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- The Justice Department has filed a brief with the Supreme Court endorsing an appellate court's decision to strike down a restrictive new voter identification law in North Carolina.
The law, passed by the state's Republican-led majority and signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, requires voters to show one of several state photo IDs, most commonly a driver's license, before being granted access to the ballot. The law also reduced the length of early voting and the ability for someone to register to vote and cast an early ballot on the same day.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia struck down North Carolina's law. The judges said it unfairly harms minorities, and that it "[targets] African Americans with almost surgical precision."
The court agreed with the plaintiffs, finding that minorities are statistically more likely to lack a driver's license, passport or other form of government photo ID than white voters. They also face the greatest hurdles to voting on Election Day due to varying work schedules and a more likely reliance on public transportation to get to their polling place, meaning they are more likely to vote by mail than whites. Opponents of the law also argued the reduction in early voting days was specifically meant to cut in half the number of Sundays included in early voting in order to blunt the effect of a "pews to the polls" initiative among black pastors who frequently encourage their congregations to fill out and mail ballots while they are at church.
Supporters of the law said the more stringent requirements on voting would cut down on instances of fraud.
McCrory's administration filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court to issue a stay of the Fourth Circuit's ruling and leave the voter ID law in place in November's election. North Carolina has also filed a broad appeal seeking to overturn the Fourth Circuit ruling.
The Justice Department said in a friend-of-the-court brief that the justices should leave the lower court ruling in place to ensure equal access to the polls for all citizens in North Carolina. The department questioned the need for the law, citing statistics showing instances of voter fraud are highly infrequent, asking why, "if there was a genuine 'emergency,' they waited so long" to address it.