The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court opinion that struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law last summer. The court denied North Carolina’s appeal of a court ruling stating its legislature intended to discriminate against minorities in enacting one of the toughest voter ID laws in the nation. The stringent voter ID laws disproportionately burden voters of color, given reason for voters to become more aware of the five truths of voter suppression.
The law was challenged by civil rights groups and the Obama administration, which argued that the law’s photo ID requirement had a disparate impact on minority voters. Civil rights groups and then President Obama challenged the law, arguing that the law’s photo ID requirements imposed disparate impact on minority voters. The Supreme Court’s action keeps in place the federal appellate court ruling which previously struck down portions of the law and blocked enforcement.
It has been customary for the court to offer, no explanation for denying the appeal, whereas, no vote was noted. Chief Justice John Roberts said the state had produced a “blizzard of filings” over who was authorized to appeal. He noted that although the court declined to hear the case, the refusal expresses no opinion about the merits of the issue.
The North Carolina General Assembly urged the court to review a lower court decision that held the law targeted “African-Americans. The Supreme Court declined to weigh in. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote separately to stress that the denial should not be read as an endorsement of the lower court’s decision.
The case was complicated by the fact that after the election, North Carolina’s new governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, moved to dismiss the appeal that was first filed when Republican Pat McCrory was governor, while lawyers for the General Assembly urged the court to move forward.
The Supreme Court invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. North Carolina imposed stringent photo ID requirement, reduced timeframe for early voting by seven days, eliminated the ability to register and vote the same day, invalidated votes cast in the incorrect precinct, and terminated pre-registration for 16-year-olds.
In a scathing decision last July, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the state legislature explicitly set out to discover the kind of accommodations that minority voters use most often and were intent on rolling back or eliminating them, targeting African Americans “with almost surgical precision.” A month after the July decision, the Supreme Court declined to block the ruling, which prevented the state from enforcing the voter restrictions. The Justices were deadlocked by a 4-4 tie at the time.
A lawyer for the state, urging the Supreme Court to take its appeal, argued that the photo ID law is more lenient than one upheld by the court eight years ago. The law’s other provisions were in effect in two earlier state-wide elections “in which African-American participation increased,” according to S. Kyle Duncan, of Washington, DC.
The appeals court decision “insults the people of North Carolina and their elected representatives by convicting them of abject racism,” Duncan said. “That charge is incredible on its face given the pains the legislature took to ensure that no one’s right to vote would be abridged.”
According to Duncan, under then President Obama, the Justice Department urged the court not to take the case and to leave the lower court ruling in place which blocks enforcement of the voting restrictions. The government’s brief was filed one day before Trump’s inauguration. Trump’s Justice Department did not take a position on the case.
The NAACP also urged the Supreme Court to leave the lower court ruling intact. Some states have similar election practices, according to members of the NAACP, but that fact “cannot save or protect voting restrictions that are adopted with racial intent.” No other state “has simultaneously curtailed four different voting mechanisms disproportionately used by African Americans, while also imposing a strict photo ID requirement that excludes all forms of government-issued photo ID disproportionately held by African Americans, according to the NAACP.
The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said the ruling was “a vindication of our constitutional and moral critique and challenge to the constitutional extremism of our government.”
Civil liberties groups on Monday applauded the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the appeal. “This is a victory against voter suppression and should send a message to other states that such extreme and racially discriminatory laws will be struck down,” Janai Nelson, associate director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement.
“This law, enacted with what the appeals court called discriminatory intent and ‘almost surgical precision’ targeting African-American voters, is meeting its much-deserved demise,” Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “An ugly chapter in voter suppression is finally closing.”
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the court’s move “now renders North Carolina’s law null and void, and brings to a close a long and protracted battle over a law deemed one of the most egregious voter suppression measures of its kind.”
Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez said, “This is a huge victory for voters and a massive blow to Republicans trying to restrict access to the ballot, especially in communities of color,” he said in a statement.”
The conservative Heritage Foundation said it was “disappointing that the Supreme Court did not accept for review an obviously wrong decision by a 4th Circuit panel that doesn’t follow the court’s precedent and other decisions on voter ID by other federal courts.”
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