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Federal Judge Upholds North Carolina's Sweeping Voter ID Law

A federal judge upheld a sweeping North Carolina law that required voters to show a photo identification before casting a ballot.

In a 485-page opinion, Thomas D. Schroeder of the Federal District Court in Winston-Salem wrote that the law served a "legitimate state interest" in its effort to "detect and deter fraud."

Michael Tomsic of NPR member station WFAE reports that Schroeder upheld all the parts of the 2013 law, including the ID requirement, the cuts to early voting and an end to same-day registration.

The New York Times reports:

"North Carolina's voter identification law requires people to display one of six credentials, such as a driver's license or passport, before casting a ballot. Those who cannot may complete a "reasonable impediment declaration" and cast a provisional ballot.

"Although critics of the law said that the voter identification standard was a cloaked effort to disenfranchise black and Hispanic voters, Judge Schroeder, who presided over a highly technical trial that began in January, dismissed such arguments.

"'Plaintiffs' contention that North Carolina's requirement is one of the strictest in the country ignores the reasonable impediment exception,' Judge Schroeder, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote. 'If North Carolina is an outlier, it is because it is one of only two states in the nation to accommodate voters who wish to vote in person but for whatever reason face an impediment to acquiring qualifying ID.'"

The Raleigh News & Observer reports civil rights organizations condemned the ruling:

"'The sweeping barriers imposed by this law undermine voter participation and have an overwhelmingly discriminatory impact on African-Americans,' Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. 'This ruling does not change that reality. We are already examining an appeal.'

"An appeal is likely and many expect the U.S. Supreme Court to be the final arbiter of the constitutionality of a law that has been monitored by many.

"'We're confident that the voters in this state will eventually be vindicated,' said Allison Riggs, a senior statff attorney at Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represented challengers to the law."

In a statement, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said the ruling affirms that requiring a photo ID to vote is "not only common-sense, it's constitutional."

He added: "Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and thankfully a federal court has ensured our citizens will have the same protection for their basic right to vote."

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