Federal appeals courts invalidated or softened voter-ID laws in Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The law also cut back dramatically on the number of early voting days, eliminated same-day registration and declared that votes cast in the wrong precinct, even if the result of poll worker error, could not be counted. "We need to be making it easier to vote, not harder", said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat who took office in January and asked the court not to take up the case.
In an order saying the court would not review the lower court's decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. cited the state's changed political scene and indicated that not all of the justices agreed with the lower court's decision.
In a victory for voting rights advocates, the Supreme Court has turned down an appeal from North Carolina's Republican leaders and let stand a decision that struck down their 2013 law that added new restrictions on voting. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals already has ruled that Texas' law violates the Voting Rights Act, but a broader challenge to the law is pending at the New Orleans-based appeals court. The state's petition for certiorari had been filed by the State, the then-Governor, along with the State Board of Elections and members of the Board.
The North Carolina case marked the first official move by the Supreme Court relating to voting rights since Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's selection, took the bench.
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This development doesn't answer any fundamental questions about the constitutionality of voter verification requirements or the long-term status of North Carolina's voter program. However, due to the Supreme Courts decision not to review it, the North Carolina law can not be enforced. A study published last week found that Wisconsin's strict voter-ID law, which was struck down but later reinstated, reduced turnout by 200,000 votes in last year's presidential election and disproportionately affected black and Democratic-leaning voters.
Needless to say, activists, civil rights groups and even the Obama administration quickly got involved, filing lawsuits against the new laws.
Passed nearly immediately after the Supreme Court gutted a key part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, this voter suppression law was so flagrantly and intentionally discriminatory that the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court said it targeted black voters "with nearly surgical precision" in its decision invalidating the provisions, and Monday's Supreme Court decision means that ruling stands.
"An ugly chapter in voter suppression is finally closing", said Dale Ho, who runs the voting-rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups that challenged the law. "All North Carolinians can rest assured that Republican legislators will continue fighting to protect the integrity of our elections by implementing the commonsense requirement to show a photo ID when we vote".
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