A federal appeals court ruled Friday that a North Carolina law requiring photo identification to cast in-person ballots was enacted "with discriminatory intent" and must be blocked.
An opinion issued by a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reverses a lower-court's ruling that had upheld the law and ordered that contested provisions be blocked.
"In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with discriminatory intent, the court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees," the panel wrote in its opinion.
The opinion later states: "We cannot ignore the record evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history."
North Carolina's voting laws were rewritten in 2013 by the conservative General Assembly to include the ID requirement and other changes.
The U.S. Justice Department, state NAACP, League of Women Voters and others sued the state, saying the restrictions violated the federal Voting Rights Act and the Constitution.
Allison Riggs, who served as the League of Women Voters' lead lawyer on the case, said the decision will widen participation in the November elections.
"This is a strong rebuke to what the North Carolina General Assembly did in 2013. It's a powerful precedent that ... federal courts will protect voting rights of voters of color," she said.
Messages seeking comment weren't immediately returned by the state's Republican governor or legislative leaders.