North Carolina instituted a strict voter ID law several years ago. It was much more restrictive than its neighboring Virginia, which has had its voter ID law upheld multiple times.
North Carolina is not so lucky today.
After being struck down by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the State appealed to the Supreme Court, but the nation’s high court will not be hearing an appeal of the lower court’s decision, according to CBS News.
The justices left in place the lower court ruling striking down the law’s photo ID requirement and reduction in early voting.
The situation was complicated when Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein tried to withdraw the appeal, which was first filed when Republican Pat McCrory was governor.
Chief Justice John Roberts said the political situation created uncertainty over who is authorized to seek review of the lower court ruling.
Roberts also noted that the Court’s decision should not lead people to conclude that the Court considered the merits of the law. The decision to decline was not based on the merits of the case.
CBS noted that Texas has dealt with similar cases regarding changes to voter ID laws. After the Supreme Court struck down portions of the Voting Rights Act that required former Jim Crow states to get federal approval before changing such laws, several of those states moved to institute more stringent requirements for voting.
North Carolina was one of those states, and new requirements were instituted to protect the integrity of the vote were implemented; however, these requirements were much more stringent than other states whose law were upheld. As the Chicago Tribune noted,
[T]he North Carolina legislature passed a law that cut a week of early voting, eliminated out-of-precinct voting and required voters to show specific types of photo ID – restrictions that election board data demonstrated would disproportionately affect African Americans and other minorities.
While voter ID laws are a good thing, they can and have been used to suppress the vote. North Carolina’s 2013 law may be one of those cases where there actually was voter suppression intended, as documents revealed from the debate pointed to an effort to do exactly that.
Voter ID laws should never be used to target anyone, political opponents included. If the North Carolina state government wants to implement a good voter ID system, they should follow the Virginia template, which has passed through multiple lawsuits in recent years.
But for now, it is back to the drawing board for North Carolina. Hopefully they learned something from this and will be more careful if they try to rewrite a voter ID statute.