Since North Carolina passed its version of a vote suppression law, it has been one long battle in the courts. Earlier this month, a panel of Federal Appellate Court judges concluded, by a vote of 2-1, that the ban on same-day registration and the voiding of ballots cast in the wrong precinct violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This ruling was based on the history of North Carolina and facts on the ground.
The Court noted that a direct consequence of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby v. Holder is it enabled North Carolina (and other states) to pick up where they left off in 1965.
Immediately after Shelby County, i.e., literally the next day, when “history” without the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirements picked up where it left off in 1965, North Carolina rushed to pass House Bill 589, the “full bill” legislative leadership likely knew it could not have gotten past federal preclearance in the pre-Shelby County era. McCrory, 997 F. Supp. 2d at 336. Thus, to whatever extent the Supreme Court could rightly celebrate voting rights progress in Shelby County, the post-Shelby County facts on the ground in North Carolina should have cautioned the district court against doing so here.
The ultimate disposition of this law has yet to be determined. However, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court stayed a lower court ruling that blocked the law’s ban on same day registration.
A majority of Supreme Court justices supported the unsigned order which will terminate if the Court ultimately declines a writ of certiorari. If the Court decides to review the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, the stay will terminate when the Supreme Court issues its ruling on the matter.
Justice Ginsburg was joined by Justice Sotomayor in dissent. The two Justices were not impressed by the majority’s indifference to the adverse effect this law will have on black voters in North Carolina.
These measures likely would not have survived federal preclearance. See 2014 WL 4852113, *15 (CA4 2014). The Court of Appeals determined that at least two of the measures – elimination of same-day registration and termination of out-of-precinct voting – risked significantly reducing opportunities for black voters to exercise the franchise in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. I would not displace that record based reasoned judgement.
This means North Carolinians who have not registered to vote by Friday, October 10 will be disenfranchised. It also means that North Carolinians who want their vote to count must be absolutely certain they vote in the right precinct.
In reality, this move was predictable because, earlier this month, the Supreme Court did exactly the same thing to early voting in Ohio. The conservatives on the court have welcomed every opportunity to side with Republicans in their quest to disenfranchise American citizens who prefer the freedoms that truly make America exceptional.
It’s also the latest indicator of conservatives on the Supreme Court are quickly becoming addicted to using the stay order as a mechanism to play politics with people’s lives and their freedoms.
David S. Cohen of Slate, explores this phenomenon in depth. But the crux of it is that the Supreme Court is using the stay order “in a highly political way that puts abstract principles before the needs of actual people with actual problems.”
Image: Think Progress