NEWS BRIEF The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intervene in North Carolina’s election laws, meaning the crucial swing state will see 17 days of early voting in this fall’s election and that voters will not have to present photo IDs to vote.
On July 29, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state’s strict voting law, passed in 2013. The law, passed by Republicans in the General Assembly and signed by Governor Pat McCrory, shortened early voting by a week to 10 days, ended same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting, and stopped a pre-registration program for teenagers. A group of plaintiffs including the North Carolina NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice challenged the law. Their challenge was rejected by a federal district judge, but a court of appeals reversed the decision, ruling the law deliberately discriminated against black voters.
McCrory asked the Supreme Court to stay that ruling, and he is appealing it. But the Court voted 4-4 on Wednesday not to grant the stay. Five justices would have had to vote to grant it, but with only eight justices on the Court since Antonin Scalia’s death, it’s tougher to reach that threshold. All four conservative justices—John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy—would have granted the stay, at least in part.
North Carolina has emerged as an important swing state in the presidential election, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as well as their running mates making frequent visits. Longer early voting and same-day registration have been shown to be used in greater proportions by minority voting blocs that lean Democratic, which means the decision could help Clinton.
It could also have an effect on down-ballot races. McCrory, a Republican, is running for reelection, and most recent polls have shown him trailing Democratic Roy Cooper. Senator Richard Burr is also in a contested election against Democrat Deborah Ross.
Even without the law however, Republican-led boards of elections in some counties have been working to limit the number of hours and locations devoted to early voting, even with the 17-day period mandated by the Fourth Circuit, drawing fierce objections from voting advocates.