Why a Loss on NC Voter ID Would Look Like a Win in Texas

Just a short note to point out how the goalposts have moved.

Plaintiffs in the Texas voter id case yesterday were claiming victory after the Fifth Circuit en banc held that Texas’s strict voter id law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. But the remedy the court approved was not striking the law as a whole; instead the trial court is to come up with some means of softening the law, such as allowing those who face a reasonable impediment to voting to be able to cast a ballot by signing an affidavit so attesting.

Now flip to NC, where the state in the face of litigation against its omnibus make-voting-harder law followed South Carolina’s model in creating a “reasonable impediment” softening to the strictness of its voter id law. SC adopted that to get Section 5 preclearance from a court when that still existed. NC is trying to avoid section 2 liability, and the trial court believed that the voter id law with the reasonable impediment workaround eliminated any discriminatory effects of the law. That’s now up on appeal before the 4th Circuit.

So if plaintiffs lose on the voter ID issue in NC it will look just like the win in Texas: a strict law in place, with a workaround that may or may not work well on the ground.

Now I’ve been very skeptical of these workarounds, believing they work better in theory than in practice, and provide a means to make judges feel better about the potential disenfranchisement caused by these laws. I’d like to see the NC and TX laws thrown out entirely.

But it looks more like the courts are converging on the harsh law with softening as the compromise.

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