Thank you Justice Scalia for dying. At least if not soon enough, at least in my lifetime.
The state won’t be able to enforce them come Election Day.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a last-ditch request from North Carolina to reinstate a controversial set of voting restrictions that would have taken effect in the lead-up to the November election.
In a one-sentence order that did not include any reasoning, the high court declined the state’s petition, which sought to put on hold a July ruling that found the voting law discriminated against African-Americans and compared it to a relic of the Jim Crow era.
The state failed to convince at least five justices that three provisions of the contested law ― its voter ID requirement, cutbacks to early voting and elimination of pre-registration for certain under-18 voters ― were worth putting back on the books. The state had argued the measures were necessary to avoid “confusion” that might keep people away from the polls.
But three justices ― Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito ― did note that they would’ve granted the state’s request, at least with respect to voter ID and early voting. Justice Clarence Thomas, for his part, would’ve granted North Carolina’s petition in full.
In essence, this means the Supreme Court voted 4-to-4 in the dispute, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan swinging against the state. A ninth conservative member in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia might have given North Carolina a key victory.
In legal filings, Civil rights groups had countered that the state’s own prior assurances in court plus “on-the-ground activity” by election officials ― including preparations at the county level to comply with the July ruling ― flew in the face of the state’s insistence that there was not enough time to get things in order for Election Day.
“Now, almost a month after the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, State and local elections officials have taken nearly all of the steps to comply with that ruling,” the voting rights groups said in a brief opposing North Carolina’s request.
The Obama administration, which in 2013 suffered a big loss when the Supreme Court did away with a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, filed its own brief urging the justices to deny the state’s plea, and to not read too much into arguments in favor of a law that was properly found to be discriminatory.
The Supreme Court’s move is a significant setback for Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who had defended the law’s voter ID requirement as “common sense” and vowed to seek emergency relief from the high court soon after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit struck it down.
But McCrory didn’t follow through on his promise: It took the state 17 days to ask the Supreme Court to inspect the ruling ― a delay that may have played a role in the court’s action on Wednesday.