From the Wall Street Journal:
A divided Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an emergency appeal by North Carolina seeking to revive stricter state voting rules, which reduced the number of days for early voting and required photo identification at the polls.
The high court, in a brief written order, declined to stay an appeals court ruling from July that struck down North Carolina’s Republican-backed voting rules. The appeals court found state lawmakers enacted the rules with the intent to discriminate against black voters.
North Carolina’s bid to restore the rules for Election Day split the Supreme Court’s current eight justices along ideological lines, with four liberal justices rejecting the request and four conservative justices supporting the state. The even split meant a loss for the state’s appeal.
The case has been one of the most closely watched election law battles in the run-up to Election Day. North Carolina is a likely battleground state in the presidential race and also is home to hotly contested Senate and gubernatorial races.
North Carolina GOP lawmakers enacted the voting restrictions in 2013 after the Supreme Court nullified part of the Voting Rights Act that previously required a group of states, mostly in the South, to obtain preliminary approval before altering their electoral practices because of their history of discrimination.
In addition to requiring voters to present photo identification, the North Carolina law eliminated previous state rules that allowed citizens to register and vote on the same day during an early voting period, as well as to cast a ballot in a precinct other than the one to which they were assigned. The state law also reduced from 17 to 10 the number of days in which voters could cast a ballot early.
The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. said the voting mechanisms targeted by the Republicans-backed state law were used disproportionately by African-Americans, who overwhelmingly voted Democratic. The court labeled the effort “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow.”
The appeals court also criticized North Carolina for accepting some forms of photo IDs but not others, such as identification cards held by people who received public assistance from the state.
In its emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, North Carolina said it shouldn’t be forced to dramatically alter its voting procedures so close to the election. The state said its tightened rules were in line with those of many other states and weren't harming minority voters.
North Carolina didn’t seek immediate restoration of all its intended procedures, saying it would allow same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting this time around.
Voters, civil rights groups and the Justice Department all challenged the law. They urged the Supreme Court not to restore the state law, saying minority voters would be irreparably harmed if the justices restored discriminatory voting procedures. They said North Carolina already had begun adapting its voting procedures to comply with the appeals court ruling and would have ample time to continue doing so.
By Brent Kendall at firstname.lastname@example.org