Voter ID requirement in North Carolina on hold for March primary

CHARLOTTE — Nowadays twists and turns in North Carolina politics are all too common leaving election directors like Michael Dickerson to scramble.

"It is kind of expected in our business," Dickerson said. "Put things down in pencil because we are going to be erasing some things."

The latest involve voter ID.

North Carolinians approved a constitutional amendment in favor of the measure in 2018 by a 10 point margin. Thursday night a federal district court judge issued a notice that next week the court will be entering a preliminary injunction of the photo ID law. This means that photo ID will not be in effect for the March primary, absent a successful appeal.

North Carolina's NAACP branch sued over the law and praised the judge's decision in a news conference Friday.

"This is a long fought for victory against voter suppression and for equal access to the ballot in this state," T. Anthony Spearman of NAACP said.

GOP leaders blasted the decision saying it is an example of judges legislating from the bench.

“This action, if it is allowed to stand, will invalidate the votes of millions of North Carolinians who voted overwhelmingly to implement voter ID and strengthen the integrity of N.C. elections.” NCGOP Communications Director Jeff Hauser said.

It will be up to democratic Attorney General Josh Stein to decide whether the state will appeal.

U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs, an Obama appointee, issued the notice ahead of NCSBE's plans to send a multi-page mailer to millions of voters about the new voter ID law. The court will file an Order granting an injunction during the week of December 30.

NCSBE already sent voters a small mailer explaining the new requirements.

At the Mecklenburg County board of elections office posters and flyers are plastered with info on the newly in flux law.

Leaders already had numerous events planned at libraries and assisted living facilities to inform people of the new law. Those events will now focus on the new election equipment that will be used in Mecklenburg County going forward.

"Now people can take their time about getting an ID if they want to and come through at whatever point they will be voting and using a photo id," Dickerson said.

Mecklenburg County will continue to offer free IDs to the public at the Board of Elections office. Dickerson says a couple dozen have been issued.

Absentee ballots for the 2020 primary are scheduled to go out in 17 days.

NCSBE statement on the voter ID injunction:

The federal district court has issued a notice that next week it will be entering a preliminary injunction of the photo ID law. This means that photo ID will not be in effect for the primary, absent a successful appeal.

The text of the court’s docket notice reads as follows:

NOTICE OF ACTION BY THE COURT: Based on the State Board’s representation at the Preliminary Injunction hearing held December 3, 2019 that the Board plans a very large statewide mailing on December 31, 2019 to educate the voters on the Photo ID provisions of S.B 824, the Court hereby informs the parties that the Court will file an Order granting Plaintiffs’ request for injunction related to the Voter Photo ID and Ballot Challenge provisions of the Act the week of December 30, 2019. (Marsh, Keah)

The court has not yet issued an order and indicated it was providing the advance notice to allow the State Board to stop the statewide mailing that was being prepared to send to all North Carolina households. We will also be working to update and revise documents and materials with photo ID-related materials understanding that subsequent statutory changes to absentee processes from Session Law 2019-239 not related to photo ID will remain in place. Once the court issues the order, our office will also be providing formal guidance to you.

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