In 2013, a law in North Carolina was enacted that required only North Carolinians with certain types of photo IDs to vote, limited early voting, eliminated same-day registration, ended out-of-precinct voting, and prohibited pre-registration of young voters.[1] The law was challenged based on constitutional grounds in federal district court, where the court sided with the State of North Carolina and upheld the constitutionality of the law.[2] However, on Friday, July 29, 2016, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law enforcing these voting restrictions were intended to discriminate against African-American voters, and reversed the District Court’s decision.[3] The 4th Circuit’s opinion stated, “the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision” and “impose cures for problems that did not exist.”[4] Some of these arbitrary restrictions being enforced by the laws allowed government-issued driver’s licenses as an acceptable form of identification, while disallowing government-issued public assistance cards as unacceptable.[5] These public assistance cards were used disproportionately by minorities in North Carolina. Prior to enacting the law, the court found that North Carolina lawmakers requested data on racial differences in voting behaviors in the state, which showed that African Americans disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID – those issued by the DMV.[6] The opinion stated, “With race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans...[t]he bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess.”[7]

Other indicators of discriminatory intent 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. “After receipt of this racial data, the General Assembly amended the bill to eliminate the first week of early voting. . .”[8] In fact, the State argued in court that “counties with Sunday voting in 2015 were disproportionately black and Democratic”, and so removed Sunday voting as a result.[9] Based on these indicators, along with others I have not even mentioned in this post, the 4th Circuit concluded that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted these provisions with discriminatory intent, and thus declared the challenged provisions unconstitutional.

There are many instances throughout the country where citizens’ rights to vote are burdened either by a discriminatory law, such as the one discussed here, or by other state actions. If you or someone you know believe that your right to vote has been unconstitutionally burdened, call an experienced election law attorney immediately – the November election is right around the corner!


By Ara M. Baghdassarian, Esq., Barnes Law

Ara is an associate attorney with Barnes Law, licensed to practice law in California.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.



[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.


[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.