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Supreme Court's Roberts: 'Uncertainty' sinks voter ID appeal

20 Mai 2017

North Carolina residents of color received hopeful news last summer, however, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed the judge's ruling, agreeing that the state legislature's law-passing was done with discriminatory intent.

"In light of Chief Justice Roberts' statement that the ruling was not based on the merits of voter ID, 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".

That was the case, the court said, even though the state had "failed to identify even a single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud in North Carolina".

A lawyer for the state, urging the Supreme Court to take its appeal, said the photo ID law is more lenient than one upheld by the court eight years ago.

►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Due to this power split, the use of a private attorney, and several other factors, the Supreme Court was beset with a "blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review" on behalf of the state at the highest level, reads the order written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Republican leaders in the Tar Heel State had appealed to the nation's highest bench after a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit unanimously ruled previous year that portions of the 2013 law were racially discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The removal of this key piece of legislation allowed the state to change its voter laws without first seeking federal approval.

The rules were slammed by the Obama administration as deliberately targeting African Americans, who traditionally vote Democrat, and prompted a law suit by the NAACP, the leading civil rights group for African Americans.

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The justices' decision not to take up a Republican appeal in the important voting rights dispute set no legal precedent and did not rule out the possibility that the court, with a 5-4 conservative majority, would endorse such laws in future.

A pile of government pamphlets explaining North Carolina's controversial "Voter ID" law sits on table at a polling station as the law goes into effect for the state's presidential primary in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. on March 15, 2016.

Previously, in September, a deadlocked Supreme Court turned down an emergency pre-election request from state officials to block the appeals court's ruling.

The appeals court decision "insults the people of North Carolina and their elected representatives by convicting them of abject racism", Duncan said. Proponents of voter-restriction laws have long argued they are meant to stop voter fraud and other abuses. 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".

Civil liberties groups on Monday applauded the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the appeal.

In the meantime, Republican state lawmakers remain eager to enact new voter restrictions.

The court also said the law was enacted with intentional bias against black voters.