A photo of four African Americans shown from behind in their own separate voter booths.

Image: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

In late July of 2016, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a collection of laws passed in North Carolina since 2013 that had, in the court’s view, the intention of denying black voters access to the polls. A lower court previously upheld the laws, but after examining the statutes, the Appeals court found that the state had acted with malice, and that the laws were specifically designed to eliminate systems put in place to help more people have access to the polls.

In 2000, only 42% of African Americans in North Carolina turned out to vote. But by 2008, that number had risen to 72%, which helped the state turn out for President Obama, going Democrat for the first time in 32 years. The increase came as a result of efforts made by Democrats to expand voting access by building in a number of systems to make it easier for people to vote, such as same-day registrations. However, after Republicans gained a majority in 2010 and the governorship in 2012, they curtailed those systems, making it harder for African Americans and other minorities to cast their ballots.

Following North Carolina’s success, Republican legislatures around the country have been trying to follow suit. In an attempt to cut spending and reduce taxes, Republicans have proposed eliminating these systems entirely. Republicans also cite the prevention of voter fraud as one of the main arguments for eradicating the systems. But, just like in North Carolina where the state was incapable of providing evidence of a single case of voter fraud, that argument proved to be invalid. As a result, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals repealed the 2013 North Carolina laws. The recent decision is a major victory for Democrats, who believe restricting access to voting is an act of systemic racism.