Supreme Court Hands Voting Rights Advocates a Big Win in North Carolina

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 17, 2017

With support from the Obama administration, voting rights groups sued North Carolina, arguing that the 2013 law was enacted to disenfranchise black and Latino voters.

Two earlier Supreme Court decisions paved the way for the wave of voter ID laws that are now in place in 32 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. We need to be making it easier to vote, not harder - and the Court found this law sought to discriminate against African-American voters with "surgical precision". But Chief Justice John Roberts issued a statement noting that there was a dispute about who represented the state in the case and that nothing should be read into the court's decision to decline to hear it.

The case was then appealed to Supreme Court, but, upon his election, North Carolina's new Gov. Roy Cooper (D), and Democratic attorney General Josh Stein sought to withdraw the appeal.

A pile of government pamphlets explaining North Carolina's controversial "Voter ID" law sits on table at a polling station as the law goes into effect for the state's presidential primary in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. on March 15, 2016.

North Carolina's Republican-controlled General Assembly has since tried to revive the state's appeal, but the U.S. Supreme Court rebuffed their efforts Monday.

The United States Supreme Court has declined a bid by Republican lawmakers in the eastern US state of North Carolina to revive a state law requiring voters to present identification at polling places.

Democrats have ignored what they considered little elections for years, but the North Carolina voter ID case demonstrates that little election victories can lead to big wins down the road.

Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine who follows election law litigation, wrote on his blog Monday that the 4th Circuit decision is important because it used partisan discrimination as a proxy for race discrimination.

The ACLU, along with other civil rights groups, had challenged the law, which was passed in the wake of the high court's decision in Shelby v. Holder.

The North Carolina Legislature had enacted the 2013 voter-ID law at issue following what the Fourth Circuit called "unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with a troubled racial history and racially polarized voting".

This photo taken a year ago shows North Carolina's voter ID rules posted at a voting station in Greensboro.

But the Richmond, Va. -based appeals court said the state provided no evidence of the kind of voter fraud the ID mandate would address.

Shortly before Trump took office in January, the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to reject the North Carolina appeal.

The State Board of Elections reported last month that about 500 ineligible voters cast ballots out of the 4.8 million recorded in North Carolina during the November election.

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

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