Photo by Mark Manring

NC Voter ID law challenged in state court

Hillsborough, N.C. – The N.C. A. Philip Randolph Institute, League of Women Voters of North Carolina, and several individual voters have filed a lawsuit challenging the photo ID requirement of North Carolina’s voter suppression law signed by Gov. Pat McCrory. The suit specifically targets provisions of the law that require a state-issued photo ID in order for an eligible voter to cast a ballot. It seeks to stop North Carolina from enforcing these provisions, because they create a new qualification for voters not already contained in the North Carolina Constitution, they unduly burden the right to vote and they discriminate against African-American voters, all in violation of the North Carolina Constitution.

In January of 2013, the State Board of Elections released a study that revealed that more than 600,000 registered voters lack photo ID. The Board matched voter registration records against DMV records and found that as many as 612,955 voters could not be matched with a DMV-issued drivers’ license or photo ID card. The General Assembly itself estimated in a note to H.B. 589, an earlier version of the voter ID law, that between 232,502 and 364,393 voters will lack acceptable photo ID by 2017. These estimates are between 3.6% and 5.6% of North Carolina’s registered voters.

One of the plaintiffs, Alberta Currie, is the Great-Granddaughter of slaves. She, her parents and her children all worked picking cotton and tobacco in the fields of Robeson County NC. She is the mother of seven, 78 years old and does not have a birth certificate because she was born at home. She has voted consistently since she first became eligible to vote in 1956. She does not have a photo ID and cannot obtain one in North Carolina without a birth certificate. She and her family consider it a matter of personal dignity to be able to go in person and vote.

According to Alberta Currie, “my mother always told me not to miss a voting day.  If I can’t vote in person like everyone else it wouldn’t feel fair; it would seem like my vote didn’t count.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several North Carolinians who will face substantial hardship under the law, and on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, whose efforts to promote voter participation in future elections will be severely hampered if the measure takes effect.  All of the Plaintiffs are represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the individual plaintiffs are also represented by Press Millen, a lawyer who has litigated numerous cases under the State Constitution.

The case, Alberta Currie et al. v. North Carolina, was filed in Orange County Superior Court. The complaint is available here: Currie v NC.