June 24, 2017

US top court lets North Carolina voter law die, pleasing rights groups

20 May 2017, 10:25 | Darin Griffith

The state's Republican governor appealed to the Supreme Court, seeking reinstatement of the law, and the case was viewed as the upcoming constitutional test of voting restrictions that intentionally target racial groups in order to gain partisan advantage.

More than 30 states have some kind of voter ID law in place.

Last July, a federal appeals court found the controversial law was created to "target African Americans with nearly surgical precision".

The removal of this key piece of legislation allowed the state to change its voter laws without first seeking federal approval.

The Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, the lead organizational plaintiff in the case, said, "Today we experience a victory for justice that is unimaginably important for African Americans, Latinos, all North Carolinians, and the nation". North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP failed to garner the five votes necessary to be granted a writ of certiorari, meaning that the Fourth Circuit's current ruling against the law will stand for now.

"An ugly chapter in voter suppression is finally closing", Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, said in a statement.

Shortly after the Supreme Court invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, North Carolina imposed a tough photo ID requirement, reduced the period for early voting by seven days, eliminated the ability to register and vote the same day, invalidated votes case in the wrong precinct, and ended pre-registration for 16-year-olds.

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"It is unconscionable that Roy Cooper and Josh Stein - who ignored state law and flouted their conflicts of interest to kill voter ID in North Carolina - have now caused the vast majority of voters who support voter ID to be denied their day in court", the statement said. "We need to be making it easier to vote, not harder".

Previously, in September, a deadlocked Supreme Court turned down an emergency pre-election request from state officials to block the appeals court's ruling. These included more strict voter ID, a seven-day reduction of early voting, nullification of votes issued in the incorrect district, and the end of same day voter registration.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a two-page statement indicating the move not to hear the case should not be interpreted as saying anything about the merits of the law, noting that one reason for not hearing it was a dispute over who represented the state. The Legislature, however, exempted absentee voting from the photo ID requirement. In July, the 4th Circuit's three-judge panel agreed with those allegations, finding that the law violated the Constitution's equal protection guarantee and the Voting Rights Act.

This development doesn't answer any fundamental questions about the constitutionality of voter verification requirements or the long-term status of North Carolina's voter program.

In the federal appeals court decision, the judges concluded that the voter ID law was discriminatory.

Democrats are praising the U.S. Supreme Court for refusing to hear an appeal aimed at reinstating North Carolina's voter identification law, which opponents have said targeted African-Americans.

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