(CN)- The U.S. Supreme Court late Wednesday issued an unsigned order reinstating provisions of a controversial North Carolina voting law that prohibits same-day voter registration and the counting of votes cast at the wrong polling place.
The decision by the justices stayed an Oct. 1, 2014, ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which held the now outlawed voting procedures must be preserved on Voting Rights Act grounds.
The law, which was enacted by North Carolina's Republican-controlled Legislature in 2013 after the federal government revised a core provision of the Voting Rights Act, mandated wide-ranging changes to how residents of the state vote.
Those changes quickly led to a lawsuit in which a number of individuals and civil rights groups were represented by the ACLU and Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The plaintiffs contended the new law was plainly unconstitutional and also conflicted with the elements of the Voting Rights Act that had not been changed.
A trial judge sided with Legislature, but last week, a divided three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit found that some of the law were indeed violative of the Voting Rights Act, while others were not.
While they ruled for reinstating same-day registration and the out-of-precinct provisional-voting, they also upheld the trial judge's denial of a request for an injunction with respect to the reduction of early-voting days; the expansion of allowable voter challengers; the elimination of the discretion of county boards of elections to keep the polls open an additional hour on Election Day in "extraordinary circumstances"; the elimination of pre-registration of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds who will not be eighteen years old by the next general election; and the soft roll-out of voter identification requirements to go into effect in 2016.
North Carolina officials asked the Supreme Court to intervene on the grounds that carrying out the appellate court's order would be overly burdensome as it "represents a massive and unprecedented last-minute change in the election practices which North Carolina implemented in the May 2014 primary and which North Carolina has been preparing to implement in the 2014 general election."
In its decision, the Supreme Court granted North Carolina a stay from implementing the 4th Circuit's order "pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari."
"Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court," a majority of the Justices said.
In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said she greed with the appeals court's determination that the two provisions "risked significantly reducing opportunities for black voters to exercise the franchise."
"Accordingly, I would retain, pending full adjudication of this case, the preliminary injunction ordered by the Court of Appeals," Justice Ginsburg wrote.