State moved to drop defense of voting rules after Democrat became governor
This photo taken March 15, 2016, shows rules posted at the door of the voting station at the Alamance Fire Station in Greensboro, N.C. The Supreme Court Monday declined to consider an appeal that sought to revive the state’s Republican-backed tighter rules for voting. Photo: Andrew Krech/Associated Press
WASHINGTON—In a win for voting-rights advocates, the Supreme Court Monday declined to consider an appeal that sought to revive North Carolina’s Republican-backed tighter rules for voting.
The court’s action was a final legal blow against the restrictions. It came after the state’s new Democratic administration sought to drop the case, which prompted an intrastate squabble in which the GOP sought to keep it alive.
A federal appeals court last year invalidated the contested North Carolina voting rules, finding state lawmakers had enacted them with an intent to discriminate against black voters. Because the Supreme Court took a pass on the case, the appeals court ruling will remain the final word in the litigation.
North Carolina, with Republicans in control, passed the changes in 2013, citing a need to preserve the integrity of elections. The new rules didn’t allow voters to register and vote on the same day, and also didn’t allow voting out-of-precinct. The state also reduced the days available for voters to cast a ballot early. The state additionally imposed a requirement that most voters show photo identification such as a driver’s license, passport, or military or veteran’s identification card.
Voters, civil rights groups and the Obama-era Justice Department challenged the North Carolina law, arguing the state purposely made it harder for minorities to vote.
Litigation over the state restrictions was among the most closely watched election law battles ahead of last November’s vote.
The appeals court decision that prohibited the voting restrictions criticized North Carolina lawmakers for targeting African-Americans “with almost surgical precision.”
North Carolina’s then-governor, Republican Pat McCrory, sought emergency intervention from the Supreme Court, asking the justices to restore some measures before election day 2016. That failed when a short-handed high court divided 4-4 along ideological lines, a split that highlighted the absence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year.
North Carolina’s underlying appeal to the Supreme Court has been pending in the months since, but the state sought to withdraw it after Roy Cooper, a Democrat, became governor.