U.S. Supreme Court will not review North Carolina’s “monster” voting law; law remains struck
The U.S. Supreme Court will not take on an appeal to reinstate North Carolina’s “monster” voting law, which was struck down by a lower court because it was passed with intent to racially discriminate against African American voters.
The case is North Carolina v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the omnibus voting restrictions law sought to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision” to limit access to the ballot box.
It’s been referred to as one of the strictest voting laws passed since the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The high court’s move means that the lower court’s order striking down the law will remain, a voting rights victory that was celebrated on social media Monday.
Chief Justice John Roberts, in an unusual statement respecting the denial of the certiorari, said the case was made complicated when Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein filed a motion to withdraw the appeal and legislative leaders filed a motion to intervene in the case.
None of the justices dissented with the decision not to take on the case.
The omnibus voter law put in place identification requirements for voting, cut early voting from 17 to 10 days, eliminated same-day registration and some teen voter preregistration and banned counting votes cast in the wrong precinct.
Previously, the Supreme Court, in a deadlock, denied a pre-election request to block the lower court’s ruling striking down the law.
Cooper said the Supreme Court’s decision today was 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 said. “I will continue to work to protect the right of every legal, registered North Carolinian to participate in our democratic process.”
Stein posted a link to the decision on Twitter and said, “Great news! #SCOTUS denied cert in anti-voter case. Restrictions on NC voters are gone. Right to vote is fundamental.”
He followed up with, “.@JoshStein_ is committed to protecting the right to vote for all North Carolinians.”
N.C. GOP Chairman Robin Hayes said after the decision that Cooper and Stein blocked “the people’s desire for voter I.D. and other common sense voting protections.”
“However, as noted by Chief Justice Roberts, ‘The denial of a writ of certiorari imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case,’” Hayes stated. “Republicans will continue to fight for common sense and constitutional voter I.D. measures, similar to what many other states already have. While Governor Cooper and Attorney General Stein have stymied voter I.D. for now, they will ultimately lose in their efforts to block North Carolina citizens from having these protections.”
They vowed to continue fighting for a voter ID law.
Rev. Dr. William Barber II said the NAACP and all its local branches are reinforced by the Supreme Court’s decision.
“We urge the General Assembly to finally accept that racially discriminatory laws have no place in our democracy, and certainly not when it comes to the sacred right to vote,” he said. “The legislature cannot erect barriers that are plainly motivated by a desire to disenfranchise African-American and Latino voters and undermine the growing voting strength of communities of color. Now is the time to move forward toward a shared prosperous future for all North Carolinians and to heal the core of our democracy in this State and in this nation.”
Penda Hair, legal director of Forward Justice and lead attorney for the NC NAACP in the case, said it’s a deeply meaningful victory for the plaintiffs, Rosanell Eaton, Carolyn Coleman, Mary Perry and Maria Palmer, who led the battle for over four years.
“Last month, Mrs. Rosanell Eaton celebrated her 96th birthday,” Hair said. “Today’s decision from the court is a testament to her, and to so many others who have committed their lives to the fight for racial equality and access to the ballot.”
“While the Court could well issue an adverse decision in the future, the 4th Circuit opinion stays on the books for now, and it has already been relied upon to hold other strict voting laws illegal (as in the Pasadena Texas case, as described in my forthcoming paper),” Hasen wrote.
“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,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “An ugly chapter in voter suppression is finally closing.”
A news release from the two groups states that the state has now exhausted all avenues of appeal when it comes the the law.
The ACLU, ACLU of NC, and SCSJ represented the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, Common Cause North Carolina, Unifour Onestop Collaborative and several individuals.
“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 nor our elections,” said Allison Riggs, senior staff attorney with SCSJ. “This ruling sends a strong message that lawmakers in North Carolina should stop enacting laws that discriminate based on race.”
Bob Phillips, Executive Director of Common Cause, said they are pleased with the decision.
“The restoration of early voting hours and the reinstatement of same-day voter registration, along with the elimination of an onerous voter ID requirement, have been a victory for North Carolina voters,” he said. “However, we must continue to be vigilant against any further attempt by the NC General Assembly to enact unfair, unnecessary and unconstitutional barriers to voting.”
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke said the Supreme Court’s move “brings to a close a long and protracted battle over a law deemed one of the most egregious voter suppression measures of its kind.”