Fourth Circuit Strikes Down N.C. Voting Restrictions

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Friday ruled that North Carolina’s monster voter suppression law, H.B. 589, was enacted with “racially discriminatory intent” to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” The law was enacted in August 2013 – just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

The decision means that photo ID will not be required for the November 2016 general election. It also restores provisions that H.B. 589 had eliminated, including a week of early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and a preregistration program for 16- and 17-year-olds.

“Today’s decision is an important victory for the countless North Carolina voters of color who were discriminated against by their own state government. We commend the voters, civil rights litigators, and community organizations that made the massive investments and sacrifices required to fight and overturn this monster voter suppression law,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference. “This arduous and expensive legal battle should never have been necessary. If the Supreme Court had not gutted the Voting Rights Act, this law would have been stopped before it ever took effect. Instead, countless voters were denied the right to cast ballots in the 2014 mid-term election and in this year’s presidential primary – and there’s no way to get those votes back. Thanks to all of those who fought tirelessly to leverage what remains of the Voting Rights Act, these voters will once again be counted in November.”

Last week, the Fifth Circuit ruled (9-6) that Texas’ strict voter ID law violates the VRA because it discriminates against Black and Hispanic voters. The court also asked a lower court to find a remedy to prevent 600,000 Texans who lack a required form of ID from being disenfranchised in November.

These cases – and the time and money it’s taken to litigate them – are only necessary because of the Supreme Court’s decision that eviscerated the VRA. Today, there are proposals in Congress to repair the law, but Republican leadership refuses to hold a hearing to examine evidence of voting discrimination.

Ensuring the right to vote wasn’t always a partisan issue. Ten years ago this week, President George W. Bush signed a VRA reauthorization that passed 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate. In the Senate today, only one Republican has cosponsored the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would help restore provisions of the VRA that were lost in 2013.