US judge rejects North Carolina voter ID law

MIAMI (AFP) - A US federal appeals court has struck down a voter identification law in the state of North Carolina that it said was aimed at limiting the turnout of black voters.

Federal judge Diana Motz wrote in her ruling Friday (July 29) that the North Carolina General Assembly "enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans." The measure, signed into law by the state's Republican governor Patrick McCrory in August 2013, was approved "with discriminatory intent," the ruling read.

Voting standards in the United States are set at a local level, and come under special scrutiny in election years - especially in key "swing states" that do not reliably vote Democratic or Republican.

For decades African-Americans have been loyal Democratic voters, and party officials believe that Republican governors are aiming to suppress their vote.

Among other things, the North Carolina law required voters at the polls starting in 2016 to show certain photo IDs "which African Americans disproportionately lacked, and eliminated or reduced registration and voting access tools that African Americans disproportionately used," read judge Motz's ruling.

The law had been immediately challenged by civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NAACP, the most important group advocating for the rights of African Americans.

"With surgical precision, North Carolina tried to eliminate voting practices disproportionately used by African Americans," wrote Dale Ho, head of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.

Separately in another swing state, Wisconsin, a federal judge found that parts of a law concerned "with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement ... particularly in minority communities." US District Judge James Peterson wrote that parts of Wisconsin's voter law approved by the state's Republican governor Scott Walker were unconstitutional.

"To put it bluntly, Wisconsin's strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease," Peterson wrote also on Friday.

Peterson's ruling comes just days after a different federal judge eased Wisconsin's strict voter identification requirements.