Yesterday the Supreme Court deadlocked over North Carolina’s request to revive parts of the state’s 2013 voting laws that were recently struck down by a federal appeals court. This means that the provisions, which included strict voter identification requirements and shortened early voting, will not be in effect for the November elections.
North Carolina’s voting laws were passed in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, which effectively dismantled parts of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, giving the federal government less oversight over voting regulations in states with a history of racial discrimination at the polls.
In July the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned the law, ruling that it was passed by the state legislature with racially discriminatory intent “in the immediate aftermath of unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with a troubled racial history and racially polarized voting.” One example of the surgical racial discrimination is the limited types of identifications that would have been accepted at the polls, which the appeals court stated “retained only those types of photo ID disproportionately held by whites and excluded those disproportionately held by African Americans.”
Unfortunately, many of North Carolina’s 100 local election boards, which are now responsible for filing their own election rules in the wake of the state laws’ overhaul, have found ways to continue to suppress minority voter participation. For example, though the appeals court ordered all counties to re-instate early voting from 10 days to 17 days, they placed no other requirements on how those 17 days were to be regulated. As a result, areas such as Lenoir County in the rural eastern portion of the state where 40 percent of the population is black will have a singular early voting location in a county stretching over 403 miles.
Other counties have re-instituted the 17 day early voting period, but severely cut the hours they will be open, with some completely eliminating operations on Sundays, a day that African American communities have historically gone together to the polls.
This summer a number of states have had their voter restriction laws blocked or overturned by federal courts including North Dakota, Wisconsin and Texas.