By Kevin Bailey
The United States Supreme Court has refused to consider an appeal by North Carolina Republicans of that state’s strict voter ID law. The law was struck down in 2016, after it was ruled to have been designed to target African-Americans, in an attempt to make it much more difficult for them to vote.
Chief Justice John Roberts did note that the court’s refusal to consider the appeal should not necessarily be read as a comment on the merits of the case.
This is not the first time the nation’s highest court has considered an appeal regarding the law, which had been arguably the strictest in the entire country. After the Supreme Court struck down an important provision of the Voting Rights Act, the way was cleared for states like North Carolina, with a long history of discrimination, to craft such sweeping voting restrictions without even the barest federal oversight.
The North Carolina law, which Republicans claimed was meant to combat voter fraud, instead deeply cut back on early voting, created a photo ID requirement, and eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and pre-registration of high school students. These restrictions were overwhelmingly more harmful to African-American voting rights, as they tend to vote early and in the areas that were restricted or eliminated, at much higher rates than whites. African-Americans also tend to overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.
The above provisions of the law were struck down by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July of 2016. In that ruling, the 4th Circuit wrote that the law was intentionally designed to discriminate “with almost surgical precision” against black people. Supporting that interpretation was the fact that Republican legislators had requested voting patterns data, sorted by race. Then, with that data in their possession, they had drafted the law that in effect served to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
North Carolina and then-Governor Pat McCrory (who would go on to lose in a stunning upset to Roy Cooper) appealed to the Supreme Court. However, the court refused to reinstate the law in time for elections, setting the stage for this ultimate refusal to even hear the appeal.