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11th Circuit Court: State’s voter ID law constitutional

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on Wednesday celebrated the recent ruling by the 11th Circuit of Appeals, which ruled that the state’s photo identification law for voters is constitutional and necessary.

“Today’s ruling by the Eleventh Circuit Court, affirming that the state’s photo ID law is constitutional, is a major victory for the security and integrity of elections in Alabama,” Merrill said in a press release. “Photo ID is required when purchasing alcohol or tobacco products, operating a motor vehicle, checking into a flight, purchasing a gun or booking a hotel. Voting is equally or more important than all of these other examples where a photo ID is required. I am grateful to the Northern District Court of Alabama and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals who have confirmed what we already knew: ‘it is so easy to get a photo ID in Alabama, no one is prevented from voting.”

The case contesting the state’s voter ID law was brought forth by Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Alabama State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

According to Campaign Legal Center (CLC), the two groups “unearthed significant evidence” that the state’s voter ID law, passed in 2011 but not enacted until the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted the pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, “was passed with a discriminatory purpose.”

Further, CLC questions the rationale behind the district court ruling, which paved the way for Wednesday’s decision.

“This district court’s decision is not consistent with decades of law on how courts must analyze claims of intentional discrimination, the CLC, which signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief in an attempt to draw the 11th Circuit Court’s attention  to the “critical missteps” in the lower court’s ruling, said. “Laws that are passed with the aim of harming or favoring any racial group are unconstitutional, plain and simple. A court analyzing such a claim must evaluate all the evidence of intentional discrimination and determine whether discrimination motivated the law. If so, the court must strike down the law. Racially discriminatory laws have no legitimacy whatsoever.”

The suit asserted that the law violates the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

For its part, the Alabama NAACP expressed disappointment at the court’s decision to rule “against the citizens of Alabama” in the case, but vowed to “continue to fight for the right to vote for all citizens without them having to produce a photo ID.”

“This decision comes at a most difficult time as we mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis who fought so hard for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said Alabama NAACP President Benard Simelton. “However, the Alabama NAACP will continue this fight in honor of Congressman Lewis – we will get in ‘good trouble.’”

Merrill, on the other hand, sees the decision as a “major victory” and insists that access to acceptable forms of identification are readily available to any voter in need.

“Through our annual visits to all 67 counties to register voters and issue free photo voter IDs, multimedia campaigns to educate voters and collaboration with local community leaders, notable Alabamians and more, we have worked to see that every eligible resident of our state, who is interested, is registered to vote and has a photo ID,” Merrill said. “Our success has allowed us to shatter every record in the history of [the] state for voter registration and voter participation.”

The Alabama NAACP is turning its attention toward upcoming elections in August and November, urging citizens to “elect people who believe in a true democratic voting process,” and calling on the U.S. Senate to take up the House-approved Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA).

“The Alabama State NAACP has just begun to fight,” Simelton said. “We have taken a severe blow to the mid-section, but we have a lot of fight left.”