Voter identification laws are good. Let’s start with that. I support them. Healthy majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents support them. Yet, what happened allegedly in North Carolina could be a stinging setback, as it looks like the North Carolina legislature used data to add provisions that would certainly impact Democratic voters (i.e. black people). As Cortney wrote last week, a federal appeals court struck down the law based on these intentions. Republican Gov. Pat McCory vows to fight it, but Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post said this case was “the smoking gun” showing that the state GOP’s intent was to disenfranchise black voters:
In particular, the court found that North Carolina lawmakers requested data on racial differences in voting behaviors in the state. "This data showed that African Americans disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID, those issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)," the judges wrote.
So the legislators made it so that the only acceptable forms of voter identification were the ones disproportionately used by white people. "With race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans," the judges wrote. "The bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess."
The data also showed that black voters were more likely to make use of early voting — particularly the first seven days out of North Carolina's 17-day voting period. So lawmakers eliminated these seven days of voting. "After receipt of this racial data, the General Assembly amended the bill to eliminate the first week of early voting, shortening the total early voting period from seventeen to ten days," the court found.
I’m going to withhold judgment for now and see what happens, but this isn’t good. It’s rather indefensible—and makes zero sense since this is already a popular policy proposal. Heck, even 65 percent of black Americans agree that you should produce some sort of identification before voting. North Carolina is already a state that pretty much splits right down the middle in terms of voting patterns. It’s also a state that breaks late for either party on Election Day. During a presidential year, with Clinton at the top of the Democratic ticket—you can be sure that this, coupled with the news that North Carolina Republicans might have used data to enact race-based provisions on voter ID, is sure going to fire up Democrats in the state. It could reverberate throughout the whole South, where Clinton does phenomenally well with Democrats, especially black voters. They’re the ones that gave her the edge over Sanders in the primaries.
Still, it doesn’t mean that conservatives should stop pushing for voter ID laws. In principle, they’re good to have during our elections. At the same time, we also have to call out our own side when they act stupidly. Regardless of the outcome, it’s not good. The Democrats have a nice narrative to fundraise off of, and you can bet that MSNBC will be all over this story.