Election 2020

Supreme Court Won't Resurrect North Carolina's Voter ID Law

Voter ID rules are posted at the door of the Alamance Fire Station in Greensboro, N.C., on March 15, 2016. (Andrew Krech/News & Record via AP)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today refused to consider reinstatement of North Carolina’s voter ID law that was struck down in July by a unanimous decision of a three-judge panel on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 2013 law killed same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting, reduced the early voting period, and required approved forms of photo ID at the polling place. In that ruling, Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote that “the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision” and “the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation.”

A “failure of perspective,” she wrote, led the district court judge who originally upheld the ruling “to ignore critical facts bearing on legislative intent, including the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina.”

Before enacting the voter ID law, Motz noted, “the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices,” and “upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans.”

After the GOP lost the governorship in the election, the new administration in North Carolina moved to dismiss the state’s appeal, prompting a new fight from the legislature arguing that the governor and state attorney general aren’t authorized to do so.

In refusing to hear the case, Chief Justice John Roberts noted, “Given the blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this Court under North Carolina law, it is important to recall our frequent admonition that ‘[t]he denial of a writ of certiorari imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case.'”

Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said the Supreme Court’s announcement “is good news for North Carolina voters.”

“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,'” he added in a statement. “I will continue to work to protect the right of every legal, registered North Carolinian to participate in our democratic process.”

Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, declared “an ugly chapter in voter suppression is finally closing.”

“We are grateful that the Supreme Court has decided to allow the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand, confirming that discrimination has no place in our democracy and elections,” said Allison Riggs, senior staff attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “This ruling sends a strong message that lawmakers in North Carolina should stop enacting laws that discriminate based on race.”

The North Carolina Republican Party scheduled a press conference for later in the afternoon to discuss the Supreme Court inaction.