Justices block stricter voter ID law in N.C.
High court says it won’t step in, reinstate limits
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday turned away an emergency appeal from North Carolina’s Republican leaders who were hoping to reinstate new voting rules that were struck down in July as racially biased.
The justices said they were deadlocked 4-4 and would not intervene, leaving in place the state’s rules for casting ballots and early voting that were used before 2013. The vote split along ideological lines.
The court’s decision is a victory for civil rights advocates and Obama administration lawyers who had challenged North Carolina’s rules as violating the Voting Rights Act. The outcome also may give a slight boost to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, who will need strong support from minority voters to prevail in November.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who is locked in a tight race for re-election, had appealed to the high court two weeks ago and contended his state would suffer “irreparable harm” if it could not enforce its new voter ID restrictions.
But the Justice Department urged the court to stand back and permit the November election to go forward “free from the taint of racial discrimination.”
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said they would have granted the emergency appeal. All four are Republican appointees. It takes a majority of five votes to grant such an appeal, which means that the court’s four Democratic ap- Gov. Pat McCrory said North Carolina “has been denied basic voting rights” granted to more than 30 other states. pointees, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, voted to deny the appeal.
Currently, new voters in North Carolina are required to present some form of identification, such as a driver’s license, Social Security or photo ID card, when they register. To cast a ballot at a polling place, they must provide a name, address and sign a form attesting to their identity. The signature is compared to the one on the registry.
The new law would have required further proof of identity at the time of voting, a step that an appeals court ruled in July could prevent thousands of registered voters who do not drive a car from casting a ballot.
Allison Riggs, an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said the court’s decision is “in the best interest of North Carolina voters, allowing elections this fall to proceed absent the cloud and concern of racially discriminatory voting laws.”
McCrory said that North Carolina “has been denied basic voting rights already granted to more than 30 other states to protect the integrity of one person, one vote through a commonsense voter ID law.”
He noted that his appeal won four votes at the high court, even though it was filed “without any support from our state’s attorney general.” Hereferred to state Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, who is running against McCrory.
North Carolina imposed the new law in 2013 after a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling struck down a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It had barred the Southern states from changing their election laws without first winning clearance from the Justice Department in Washington.
Freed from federal oversight, a state Senate leader announced plans to revise election rules.
GOP lawmakers “requested and received racial data” on how different voting rules would help or hurt racial minorities. And they then adopted, on a partyline vote, ... changes to the election procedures that “targeted African-Americans with almost surgical precision,” the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found in July.
While the high court refused to allow the disputed law to be enforced this year, the state’s lawyers still may file an appeal seeking a review of the 4th Circuit’s decision.