In December 2015, LDF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Greater Birmingham Ministries (“GBM”) and the Alabama NAACP challenging Alabama’s restrictive photo voter ID law HB 19. Although Alabama’s voter ID law was passed in June 2011, the State did not begin to implement it until after the Shelby County v. Holder decision in June 2014. LDF’s lawsuit maintains that the Alabama legislature intentionally discriminated against Black and Latino voters when it passed the voter ID law in 2011, and that it indeed has had a racially discriminatory effect on voters of color, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
In late 2015, Alabama closed the driver’s license-issuing offices in nearly every majority-Black county. The offices remained partially closed for the 2016 elections until a civil rights settlement with the federal government required the offices to be fully reopened. Voters of color in Alabama are about two times more likely than white voters to lack acceptable ID, are over four times more likely to have their provisional ballots rejected because of the law and are almost three times more likely to neither have a car nor live within five miles of ID-issuing offices. Nationally, 25% of Black and 16% of Latino voting age citizens, but only 8% of white voting age citizens lack a government-issued photo ID. The chief sponsors of Alabama’s photo ID law openly stated that its purpose was to undermine the “black power structure” and, just months prior to the passage of the law, were recorded plotting to suppress Black voter turnout in the upcoming election.
In January 2018, the District Court dismissed the lawsuit without a trial, despite evidence that the Legislature had intentionally passed the law to discriminate against and burden Black and Latino voters. LDF continued to challenge the law in in Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
On July 21, 2020, the Eleventh Circuit issued a 2-1 decision, and over Judge Gayle’s dissent, upholding the district court’s grant of summary judgment to defendants. The majority held that there was insufficient evidence that the legislature was motivated by racial discrimination to support our equal protection claim, and that the evidence of discriminatory impact was insufficient under Section 2 of the VRA. LDF filed a petition for rehearing en banc focusing on the intentional discrimination claim. On June 1, 2021, the Court denied rehearing en banc over the dissent of four judges.