In an equally split ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) declined to allow North Carolina to reinstate its controversial voter requirements before the November election. A federal appeals court had ruled that North Carolina's voter requirements were racially discriminatory.
On Sept. 1, SCOTUS was divided on the provisions of North Carolina’s recently struck down voter stipulations, which had mandated voter identification requirements and limited the number of days for early in-person voting, The Associated Press reports.
By a decision of 4-4, the justices refused to reinstate the voter laws. This means that North Carolina residents will not be required to produce any of the mandated photo IDs in order to cast their ballot and will have 17 days before the November election to submit their vote.
North Carolina’s voting restrictions had been passed by a GOP-controlled Legislature in 2013 but then struck down by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 29.
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After reviewing the evidence, the 4th Circuit panel ruled that Republican lawmakers in North Carolina had created voting restrictions that targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
For instance, the panel had noted that while African Americans in North Carolina were disproportionately less likely to have a photo ID than whites, they were also reliably Democratic voters.
The 4th Circuit Court had also struck down North Carolina’s short early voting period, which had been made into 10 days instead of 17 days.
In the 2012 presidential race, 56 percent of North Carolina voters had cast their ballots during the 17-day period before the election.
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Republican Gov. Pat McCrory had made an appeal to SCOTUS to reinstate the controversial voting restrictions before the November election. The governor slammed the justices’ decision, stating that North Carolina “has been denied basic voting rights.”
Attorney Allison Riggs, who represents North Carolina voters who had challenged the 2013 law, praised the SCOTUS decision.
“Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians will now be able to vote without barriers,” Riggs said.
Controversy over the Tar Heel State's voting laws will only continue.
Critics have pointed to the GOP-controlled local election boards’ efforts to limit early polling sites’ hours of operation and number of locations in predominantly African-American counties as evidence of voter suppression, The New York Times reports.
On Aug. 22, a survey conducted by Gallup found that 80 percent of Americans were in favor of voter ID requirements. Meanwhile, 80 percent of respondents were also in favor of early voting.