Supreme Court Struck Down NC Voter ID Law Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday denied N.C. Republican legislators' appeal to review the 2013 voter ID law. The ruling the lower court made last summer, which struck down the law because it disproportionately affected African-Americans’ ability to vote in the state, will stand.

The law required citizens to show photo identification, reduced early voting periods from 17 days to 10 days, prohibited same-day registration when voting early and eliminated pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law targeted African-Americans with “almost surgical precision” and that “the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent.”

“Today’s announcement is good news for North Carolina voters,” N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. “We need to be making it easier to vote, not harder.”

The Supreme Court’s decision was not based on the merits of the law but because of a number of filings made by the numerous parties involved in the legal battle. After the lower court’s ruling in July, former Gov. Pat McCrory and the State Board of Elections filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in December 2016, with the N.C. NAACP in opposition.

Cooper and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein filed motions asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition in January. The General Assembly objected as a dispute ensued over which party has the right to represent the states' interests in court — the General Assembly or the State Attorney General — with both parties filing further motions to the Supreme Court. This dispute was the basis of the court’s decision not to hear the appeal.

“Given the blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this Court under North Carolina law,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in the two-page order. “It is important to recall our frequent admonition that ‘the denial of a writ of certiorari imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case.’”

N.C. Speaker of the House Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and N.C. Senate President ProTem Phil Berger, R-Guilford, released a joint statement blamimg Cooper and Stein for killing the voter ID law.

“All North Carolinians can rest assured that Republican legislators will continue fighting to protect the integrity of our elections by implementing the commonsense requirement to show a photo ID when we vote,” the statement said.

Mitch Kokai, a senior political analyst at the John Locke Foundation, said 30 other states already have photo identification laws for voting in place.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld voter ID in the past,” he said, “So (the General Assembly) will be looking at ways that they can craft North Carolina law that would withstand the scrutiny set out by previous court precedent.”

N.C. Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover, said there's no need for stricter voting laws because there's no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

"It’s great news for people who believe that easier access to the polls is a cornerstone of any democracy,” Butler said.

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