The legislature requested data

Ari Berman on the North Carolina ruling:

This is a huge victory for voting rights—the most significant in the country since the Shelby County v. Holder decision—that will make it easier for hundreds of thousands of voters to cast a ballot this November. It comes just a week before the 51st anniversary of the VRA on August 6, and is especially welcome because there were widespread voting problems during North Carolina’s presidential primary in March that offered a disturbing preview of what to expect in the general election—students waited in three-hour lines, foreign-born US citizens were asked to spell their names to poll workers for no reason in an apparent literacy test, and elderly voters born during Jim Crow were turned away from the polls.

Most notably, the Fourth Circuit court found that GOP legislators restricted the right to vote to intentionally target African-American voters. North Carolina passed a series of reforms beginning in 2000 that benefited all voters, particularly black voters, wrote Judge Diana Motz, a Clinton appointee, in a unanimous opinion.

During the period in which North Carolina jurisdictions were covered by Section 5, African American electoral participation dramatically improved. In particular, between 2000 and 2012, when the law provided for the voting mechanisms at issue here and did not require photo ID, African American voter registration swelled by 51.1%.

African American turnout similarly surged, from 41.9% in 2000 to 71.5% in 2008 and 68.5% in 2012.

Which is a good thing, right? Well yes except that African Americans don’t tend to vote Republican. What to do, what to do.

The ruling continues:

After years of preclearance and expansion of voting access, by 2013 African American registration and turnout rates had finally reached near-parity with white registration and turnout rates. African Americans were poised to act as a major electoral force. But, on the day after the Supreme Court issued Shelby County v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 2612 (2013), eliminating preclearance obligations, a leader of the party that newly dominated the legislature (and the party that rarely enjoyed African American support) announced an intention to enact what he characterized as an “omnibus” election law. Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans.

In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its action, the State offered only meager justifications. Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation.

Faced with this record, we can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent.

Let me just repeat one sentence, with emphasis: Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices.

Oh did they. What an interesting coincidence.

Berman says this ruling may represent a trend. Good news.

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