NC’s New Governor Acts to Withdraw Challenge to Voting Rights

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein have withdrawn the state’s request that the United States Supreme Court reinstate an NC law that had imposed a number of voting restrictions on North Carolinians.  The “monster” voting law had been previously struck down by the US 4th Cir. Court of Appeals, which held that the law was “enacted with racially discriminatory intent in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and § 2 of the Voting Rights Act”.

The overturned “monster” anti-voting law was hastily enacted in 2013 after Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act  (a law to preserve voting rights in areas that had historically disenfranchised Black voters) was gutted by Shelby County v. Holder. In its 2016 opinion overturning the law, the court found that the NC anti-voting law had “target[ed] African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

Then, a few days before former Governor McCrory left office, he filed a petition in the United States Supreme Court to appeal the lower court’s decision and reinstate what many have called the worst voter suppression bill since before the civil rights movement.

Earlier this month Election Law blogger Rick Hasen, writing for Slate, opined that withdrawing NC’s petition for appeal from the US Supreme Court would make “voting rights a bit more secure”.

North Carolina voting-rights groups like Democracy North Carolina and emerging grass-roots activists have called on the Governor and Attorney General  to withdraw the petition for a Writ of Certiorari.  Governor Cooper and Attorney General Stein have responded to the situation by formally withdrawing the State’s request for the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, and terminating the state’s representation by outside counsel.

Even with these actions on behalf of North Carolina, the State Board of Elections is still a party to the case and there is some question as to whether the NC General Assembly can hire an outside attorney to continue the petition on its behalf.

In a press release explaining the reasons for his actions today, AG Stein said “The right to vote is our most fundamental right”.   However, the NCGA leadership appears to be determined to continue their attack on voting rights.

Voting rights in North Carolina affect the whole world. North Carolina has 15 electoral votes. If we can have fair and free elections in North Carolina, those 15 electoral votes could be pivotal in electing a president in four years.  Suffrage supporters and fans of universal franchise should continue to watch this case for future developments impacting North Carolinians’ right to vote.

For more information

Study on “Voter ID” laws show that they intentionally discriminate against voters of color.

Voting Rights Act 

Voting Rights Round-up