Supreme Court's Roberts: 'Uncertainty' sinks voter ID appeal

In a brutal finding a year ago, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law, in a blockbuster ruling that declared the state Legislature had acted with discriminatory intent when adopting the law, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

The US Supreme Court on Monday dealt a severe blow to a North Carolina voting law widely seen as discriminating against African Americans.

The New Hanover County Board of Elections displays the NC Voter ID Laws.

The Supreme Court today refused to consider reinstatement of North Carolina's voter ID law that was struck down in July by a unanimous decision of a three-judge panel on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"This controversial theory is an important one going forward in dealing with laws passed by white Republican legislatures in Southern states for self-interested reasons", Hasen wrote. The North Carolina NAACP was the lead organizational plaintiff on the case. "Photo ID will no longer be required to vote in North Carolina".

As Diana Gibbon Motz of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: "Although the new provisions target African Americans with nearly surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist".

The New York Times reports that the appeals court ruling struck down five parts of the law: its voter ID requirements, a rollback of early voting to 10 days from 17, an elimination of same-day registration and of preregistration of some teenagers, and its ban on counting votes cast in the wrong precinct. The process was muddied when newly elected Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein attempted to withdraw the appeal after taking office in 2017.

The Supreme Court could yet be asked to review a similar Texas law now under challenge in lower courts. "But there's no higher court than the Supreme Court, this effectively ends Supreme Court case 16-833".

The law, enacted in 2013 by the General Assembly's GOP majority, imposed a range of voting restrictions, including new voter ID requirements, shorter early-voting periods, elimination, and same-day registration. Pat McCrory (R) pleaded with the Supreme Court to allow the state to enforce the voting measures.

While the court made no pronouncement on its decision, as is usual in such cases, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts said it was not clear who was representing North Carolina in its pursuit of the case, and said that no conclusions should be drawn from the court's decision not to hear it.

Critics said the commission would justify voter suppression efforts, while state election officials are anxious it could "divert attention from other serious concerns, such as aging equipment and the threat of hacking", she wrote.

"This is a big deal and VERY good news for the voting- rights community", tweeted Rick Hasen, an election-law expert and law professor at the University of California, Irvine.

Last summer, before the election, the justices signaled they were closely divided when they split 4-4 on a request to allow the provision of the law to go into effect for the election.

"Now is the time for North Carolina lawmakers to restore access to democracy for its citizens", Clarke added.

In the federal appeals court decision, the judges concluded that the voter ID law was discriminatory. The Legislature, however, exempted absentee voting from the photo ID requirement.

  • Larry Hoffman