In 2013, the North Carolina Legislature passed North Carolina Session Law (SL) 2013-381, which: added a requirement that in-person voters have qualifying identification, reduced the length of early voting by one week, set the time to register to vote at 25 days before election day, ended provisional out of-precinct voting, and eliminated the policy of allowing citizens at least sixteen years old to pre-register to vote.
Under SL 2013-381, a voter must present one of eight forms of photo identification before voting. Those who do not have identification and who can list a reasonable impediment to getting one, can vote in person without photo identification if they provide alternative identification and complete a reasonable impediment declaration. Voters with disabilities, those who have a reasonable impediment to voting, those with religious objections to being photographed, certain victims of natural disasters, and absentee mail voters are exempt from the photo identification requirement. Free voter IDs are at various DMV offices. In 2014, the State held its election under the new law.
In 2013, various parties sued alleging that SL 2013-381 violates the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fifteenth Amendment, and Section 2 of the VRA. On August 8, 2014, the district court denied a preliminary injunction; later the Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. On April 16, 2015, the Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of certiorari. On April 25, 2016, the North Carolina federal district court for the Middle District of North Carolina, after holding a bench trial, ruled for North Carolina, holding that no aspect of the State’s new law violated Section 2 or the Constitution.
On June 16, 2016, MSLF filed its friend of the court in support of North Carolina. Citing a 2008 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, MSLF argued that the Court held that a nearly identical Indiana photo identification law did not unduly burden the right to vote. The Court ruled that the photo identification law creates only a minimal burden, not significantly greater than the burden of voting itself.
On July 29, 2016, a panel of the Fourth Circuit held that SL 2013-281 was motivated by a discriminatory intent and held that it violated the Constitution and Section 2 of the VRA. On December 30, 2016, North Carolina’s petition for writ of certiorari was docketed. On May 15, 2017, the Supreme Court denied the petition.