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Strict North Carolina voter ID law thwarted after

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday announced that it would stay out of a fight over a restrictive North Carolina voting law. The move left in place a federal appeals court ruling that struck down key parts of the law as an unconstitutional effort to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

As is the court’s custom, the justices gave no reason for declining to hear the case. But Chief Justice John Roberts issued a statement noting that there was a dispute about who represented the state in the case and that nothing should be read into the court’s decision to decline to hear it.


The leaders of North Carolina’s Republican-controlled Legislature seized on that point Monday, all but stating that they would seek to enact new voting restrictions after their defeat.

“All North Carolinians can rest assured that Republican legislators will continue fighting to protect the integrity of our elections by implementing the common sense requirement to show a photo ID when we vote,” said House Speaker Tim Moore and Phil Berger, president pro tempore of the North Carolina Senate.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Daniel T. Donovan, noted that the appeals court had struck down the state’s voter-ID requirement as baldly discriminatory.

“It’ll be pretty interesting to see how they can do it without having a discriminatory effect on minority voters,” he said. “They’d have real issues if they come anywhere close” to the provisions that the appeals court struck down.

The law, enacted by the Legislature in 2013, imposed an array of voting restrictions, including new voter identification requirements. It was part of a wave of voting restrictions enacted after a 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision that effectively struck down a central part of the federal Voting Rights Act, weakening federal oversight of voting rights.

The case challenging the North Carolina law was brought by civil rights groups and the Obama administration. A trial judge rejected arguments that the law violated the Constitution and what remained of the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge panel of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, in Richmond, Va., disagreed.


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 found that all five restrictions “disproportionately affected African-Americans.” The law’s voter identification provision, for instance, “retained only those types of photo ID disproportionately held by whites and excluded those disproportionately held by African-Americans.”

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.

The decision Monday not to hear the case turned on procedural issues, not on the substance of the suit, so the court’s leanings remain unknown.