In some good news coming out of Washington, D.C., the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal to reinstate North Carolina’s restrictive voter identification law, which a lower court ruled targeted African Americans.
The law, put forth by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature in 2013, was enacted after the 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision that gutted the federal Voting Rights Act, which helped to curb voter suppression.
After that law was challenged by civil rights groups, a trial judge agreed that the new N.C. law was not unconstitutional, but a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Viriginia, disagreed. That court ruled that the law’s photo ID requirement and reduction in early voting was discriminatory.
The Supreme Court recently agreed with that decision, though Chief Justice John Roberts was clear to note that that the rejection of the appeal is not a comment on the court’s view about the substance of the law, according to the Associated Press.
The New York Times reports that the appeals court ruling struck down five parts of the law: its voter ID requirements, a rollback of early voting to 10 days from 17, an elimination of same-day registration and of preregistration of some teenagers, and its ban on counting votes cast in the wrong precinct.
The court also found that the early voting restrictions had a much larger effect on black voters, who “disproportionately used the first seven days of early voting.” The law, the court said, eliminated one of two “souls-to-the-polls” Sundays when black churches provided rides to polling places. Because of these facts, the court stated that the law targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision.”
North Carolina is just one of many states that enacted laws that made it more difficult for mostly young and minority voters (who tend to vote Democrat) to exercise their rights. Many Republican-led legislatures say the new laws are to protect the “integrity” of the voting process and avoid voter fraud, but there is no evidence to support this so-called fraud, and many civil rights groups see the new laws as a systemic means of voter suppression.
After the Supreme Court’s decision to weaken the Voting Rights act, voters, civil rights groups and the Obama administration quickly filed lawsuits challenging the new laws. Four months ago, the Supreme Court rejected a similar voter ID law in Texas.
Shortly before President Trump took office in January, the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to reject the North Carolina appeal.
Which it did. Thankfully.
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