Supreme Court Order, 4-4 Split: North Carolina May Not Reinstate Voter Law Restrictions


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A decision blocking the State of North Carolina from implementing some of its most restrictive Voter ID law requirements will remain in place. In a 4-4 split tie, the Supreme Court was unable to overturn a decision blocking provisions of the 2013 election law.

The law would have allowed selective enforcement of voter ID requirements, reduced early voting days, and made voter registration more difficult.

To gain an order like this [PDF] from the Supreme Court, there must be five Justices willing to agree. Four Justices mentioned specifically that they would have granted the state the right to implement the more restrictive laws. With a tie, the lower decision stands.

supreme-court-split-north-carolina-voter-orderIn the July appeals decision [PDF], a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided unanimously. The court described the provisions as forming an “almost surgical” strike to targeting minorities.

Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation… Faced with this record, we can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent…

The appears court noticed:

in what comes as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times, the State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race — specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise.

As one example,

members of the General Assembly requested and received a breakdown by race of DMV-issued ID ownership, absentee voting, early voting, same-day registration, and provisional voting …

This data revealed that African Americans disproportionately used early voting, same-day registration, and out-of-precinct voting, and disproportionately lacked DMV-issued ID. N.C. State Conf., 2016 WL 1650774, at *148; J.A. 1782-97, 3084-3119. Not only that, it also revealed that African Americans did not disproportionately use absentee voting; whites did. J.A. 1796-97, 3744-47. SL 2013-381 drastically restricted all of these other forms of access to the franchise, but exempted absentee voting from the photo ID requirement.

Now, it is nearly certain that these provisions will not be in effect in 2016.

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