Judges have rejected voter identification laws in three US states, including North Carolina, Kansas and Wisconsin. Critics said the laws restricted voting rights for poor people and those from minority communities.
The North Carolina General Assembly "enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans," federal judge Diana Motz wrote in her ruling.
The measure, which was signed into law by North Carolina's Republican Governor Patrick McCrory in August 2013 was approved "with discriminatory intent," the ruling said. The new law required voters at polls starting 2016 to show photo identity cards, "which African American voters disproportionately lacked and eliminated or reduced registration and voting access tools that African Americans disproportionately used," Motz said.
The North Carolina voting law limited the number of acceptable photo IDs to six, reduced early voting and eliminated same-day registration. Supporters of the law said the restriction for IDs would help combat voter fraud, but critics, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NCAAP say the measure discriminates against minority voters and poor people, who are less likely to have drivers' licenses, for example.
Kansas, Wisconsin follow suit
Similarly in Kansas, which traditionally votes Republican, a judge ordered the state to count thousands of votes in local and state elections from people who did not provide proof of US citizenship when they registered.
The ruling was a response to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Krobach's proposed rule to prevent illegal residents from voting. But the judge's decision meant around 17,000 voters would have their ballots counted in the upcoming elections for the state legislature. Supporters say there have been few cases of fraud in the past.
In Wisconsin, considered a swing state, US Judge James Peterson ordered the state to quickly issue election IDs to people who were lacking required documents such as birth certificates. He struck down restrictions on early and absentee voting, saying they discriminated against blacks. He removed a prohibition on using expired student IDs for voting and on distributing absentee ballots by fax or email.
Voting standards in the US are agreed upon at a local level and come under scrutiny before presidential polls in the so-called swing states, where voters may choose either Democrats or Republicans. African Americans have been reliable Democrat voters, and party members believe the voter identification law may be a ploy to suppress their vote.
The latest rulings follow a recent decision by a New Orleans court to ease restrictions on the voter ID law in Texas, which critics consider to be one of the most restrictive voting laws in the US.
mg/rc (AFP, AP)