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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
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No. Carolina Election Law Won’t Go to High Court

(CN) - The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a North Carolina election that opponents claim prevents blacks from voting.

The NAACP and the League of Women Voters sued North Carolina in August 2014, claiming changes to the state's election law that had passed by the state's General Assembly two weeks earlier would make it harder to vote and dilute African Americans' voting power.

The law created stricter voter I.D. rules, eliminated same-day voter registration, prohibited the counting of provisional ballots cast by voters who go to the wrong precinct, and expanded the number of poll observers and those who can challenge ballots.

"In enacting H.B. 589, North Carolina became one of the first states to pass more restrictive voting laws following the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder," the plaintiffs said. "The breadth of the new law is striking, targeting nearly every aspect of the voting process. One leading election-law scholar described H.B. 589 as 'probably the most suppressive voting measure passed in the United States in decades.'"

With Shelby County, the high court struck a blow to the government's ability to force state and local governments with histories of voting discrimination to seek federal preclearance to change its voting rules.

The court ruled, 5-4, that the law's coverage formula to determine which jurisdictions face preclearance is unconstitutional, rendering the preclearance requirement irrelevant.

The Justice Department filed its own suit against North Carolina in October, seeking both to protect the state's black voters, and to try to peel back some of Shelby County.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder initially refused to grant the plaintiffs a requested preliminary injunction, but the 4th Circuit overruled him in part, remanding the case with directions that he grant the injunctive relief on two components of the law -- the elimination of same-day registration and the counting of votes inadvertently cast in the wrong district.

The Supreme Court then intervened, staying the injunctive relief to that the law would remain in effect for the November elections.

On Monday, however, the justices tossed their earlier order, rejecting the state's appeal of the 4th Circuit ruling, and Judge Schroeder's fulfillment of it. As is the court's custom, the justices offered no reason for their decision.

A trial is set for July on the suit filed by the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

North Carolina voters next go to the polls in September, when they'll vote in local elections. The next statewide election in the state is the presidential primary, currently slated for Tuesday, February 16, 2016, although lawmakers have been floating proposals that could move the date to anywhere between February 20 and March 1.

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