N.C. Lawmakers Urge Justice Department to Seek Immediate Stay of Voter ID Injunction

Raleigh, N.C. – Attorneys representing North Carolina lawmakers urged the state Department of Justice on Monday to immediately seek a stay of a federal judge’s recent injunction blocking a voter ID requirement from taking effect for the state’s 2020 elections.

After North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment to require voter ID in the 2018 general election, a bipartisan bill implementing the law was sponsored by an African American Senate Democrat and approved by bipartisan supermajorities of both chambers of the state General Assembly.

While 34 states already have a voter ID law, North Carolina’s is one of the most lenient in the nation.  It ensures individuals aren’t turned away who don’t have a qualifying ID by allowing anyone to vote if they sign an affidavit citing a reasonable impediment to obtaining an ID. 

North Carolina’s law also accommodates religious objectors to photo ID, provides for free government-issued IDs and accepts drivers’ licenses, passports, military and veteran IDs, student IDs, voter ID cards, as well as state and local government IDs.  Expired drivers’ licenses and licenses from other states would even qualify in some circumstances.

Despite drafting and passing the voter ID law, General Assembly legislators have been blocked from intervening in the case challenging it.  The federal judge, a President Obama appointee, refused to allow state lawmakers to defend their own legislation.  The only parties to the lawsuit allowed to defend voter ID are the members of the State Board of Elections, an executive agency controlled by Governor Cooper, who has long opposed voter ID.

Attorneys representing General Assembly lawmakers at the firm of Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, wrote the following in an email to DOJ officials on Monday:

“It is not clear…whether the voter ID law could as a practical matter be enforced in the March 2020 primaries if the injunction is lifted or stayed after December 31,” an attorney for North Carolina lawmakers wrote to DOJ on Monday.  “And at the very least it appears that resolution is needed by January 13, 2020, as that is the date when absentee ballots will be available.”

“For these reasons, it is imperative that you seek a stay of Judge Biggs’s injunction immediately to avoid irreparable harm to the State.”

Lawmakers have also publicly urged the DOJ to immediately appeal the forthcoming injunction of voter ID in North Carolina, which was announced by a federal judge without an accompanying opinion just days before a statewide mailer was to be issued by the State Board of Elections informing voters of the new law.

State House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) released the following joint statement:

“The North Carolina Department of Justice must ask for a stay in this case. This last-ditch effort from an unelected judge to stymie the implementation of voter ID and prohibit the legislature from defending the law it wrote is inappropriate. Legislative leaders have worked in good faith to accept numerous forms of IDs and allow for certain exclusions. The result is one of the most lenient voter ID laws in the nation.”