We hereby nominate Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Diana Gribbon Motz for "Best Judicial Opinion" of 2016.
Last Friday, Motz and two other federal judges struck down sweeping voting restrictions enacted by North Carolina's legislature—and dutifully signed into law by Governor McCrory—in 2013. (In April, a federal district judge, Thomas Schroeder, who is now hearing arguments on HB 2, upheld the law.) Motz laid out in almost chilling detail just how pernicious the General Assembly's attempt to disenfranchise black voters really was, calling it "the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow."
Good riddance. Here are some other highlights:
- "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." "The [lower] court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees. This failure of perspective led the court to ignore critical facts bearing on legislative intent, including the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina."
- The photo ID requirement enacts "seemingly irrational restrictions unrelated to the goal of combating fraud."
- "Neither this legislature—nor, as far as we can tell, any other legislature in the Country—has ever done so much, so fast, to restrict access to [voting]."
- "The totality of the circumstances—North Carolina's history of voting discrimination; the surge in African American voting; the legislature's knowledge that African Americans voting translated into support for one party; and the swift elimination of the tools African Americans had used to vote and imposition of a new barrier at the first opportunity to do so—cumulatively and unmistakably reveal that the General Assembly used [the legislation] to entrench itself."
- And our favorite: "We can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the district court."