If Kaine’s prediction proves true, it could have an impact on the outcome in this battleground state in the contest between his running mate, Hillary Clinton, and Republican Donald Trump. President Obama narrowly carried North Carolina in 2008 but lost it to Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. In both cases, the race was decided by fewer than 100,000 votes.
“The court found that there was an intent, an intent to discriminate against African Americans,” Kaine, a senator from Virginia, said at a rally here. “After this court ruling, we’ve got to show everybody we know this court ruling matters and vote for Hillary Clinton.”
Kaine said that "the effect of that ruling could mean an additional 100,000 people who were supposed to be able to participate, who were shunted to the side, will now get to come back in and participate, as is their God-given constitutional right to do."
In addition to requiring residents to show identification before they could cast a ballot, the 2013 law also eliminated same-day voter registration, seven days of early voting and out-of-precinct voting.
Supporters of the law, including North Carolina's Republican governor, Pat McCrory, have maintained that the requirements were necessary to prevent voter fraud and have vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The federal appeals court in Richmond found that North Carolina's law had been enacted by a Republican-led legislature with the aim of disenfranchising minority voters who tend to side with Democrats in large numbers. The judges wrote that the provisions "target African Americans with almost surgical precision."
Studies have shown, for example, that African Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to take advantage of early voting. And the rules on acceptable forms of identification were tailored to tamp down black participation, the judges found.
"With race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans," the judges wrote. "The bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess."
The ruling has buoyed Democrats here, and even some Republicans — while questioning the impartiality of the panel of judges — acknowledge it could affect the outcome of a close presidential race.
“My view is it’s going to accrue to the Democrats,” said Marc Rotterman, a senior fellow at the conservative John Locke Foundation in Raleigh and a veteran GOP strategist. “It will definitely help with their turnout, and it’s something they weren’t counting on. It could help tip the scales in a close race.”
North Carolina, with 15 electoral votes, is one of a handful of potentially decisive states that both parties have seen as winnable this year.
Aside from Obama’s narrow win in 2008, the state has tended to swing in favor of Republicans in recent decades.
Democrats, however, see longer-term trends working in the party’s favor: an ongoing influx of college-educated professionals along the urban and suburban corridor that stretches through here from Raleigh to Charlotte, and an uptick in the African American share of the electorate that is part of the legacy of Obama’s elections.
According to exit polls, African Americans accounted for about 18 percent of the North Carolina electorate in 1996. By 2012, the black share of the vote rose to 23 percent.
That was partly because of population growth. But an aggressive effort by the Obama campaign to register new voters and make sure they turned out was also a big factor.
Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), who spoke before Kaine at the rally here, told the crowd that the court ruling is “great news” and encouraged people to “take your souls to the polls.”
“With the court decision, it means North Carolina is going to be even more of a battleground state,” she said.
In their bid to win the state for Clinton, Democrats alos are banking on a backlash against the controversial North Carolina law that limits LGBT protections, known as House Bill 2.
Kaine took aim Wednesday at that measure as well, noting that businesses have boycotted the state amid the furor over the law, which has received most publicity for dictating which bathrooms must be used by transgender people.
“You all have stood up in a major way and said this is not who we are,” Kaine said.
He also chided Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), for having signed legislation in his state that Kaine also characterized as discriminatory toward gay people.
“He had to kind of do a U-turn,” Kaine said, referring to changes to the law that took place after opposition from the business community in Indiana.
Kaine’s visit here was largely focused on promoting Clinton’s jobs agenda. In addition to the rally, he visited a small manufacturer of drapes and bedding in High Point.