Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the law, “had a discriminatory effect … and had been motivated by discriminatory intent.”
North Carolina’s warring lawmakers failed Monday to have the U.S. Supreme Court take up a battle over a voter-identification law struck down as discriminatory.
One of the dozens of cases denied certiorari this morning by the high court, the dispute at issue stems from infighting within the state about the future of the law.
Though the state had sought a writ of certiorari after the Fourth Circuit struck down the law as unconstitutional last year, the election of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper marked a game-changer.
North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly has since tried to revive the state’s appeal, but the U.S. Supreme Court rebuffed their efforts Monday.
Chief Justice John Roberts explained in an accompanying statement that the order says nothing about the merits of North Carolina’s law.
“Given the blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this court under North Carolina law, it is important to recall our frequent admonition that ‘the denial of a writ of certiorari imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case,’” he wrote.
The North Carolina Legislature had enacted the 2013 voter-ID law at issue following what the Fourth Circuit called “unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with a troubled racial history and racially polarized voting.”
Though a federal judge had sided with the state after a trial, the Fourth Circuit reversed in July 2016.
“The District Court clearly erred in ignoring or dismissing this historical background evidence, all of which supports a finding of discriminatory intent,” U.S. Circuit Judge Diana Motz wrote for the court’s three-judge panel.
Chief Justice Roberts laid out the provisions of Session Law 2013–381 in his brief opinion. It “contained measures (1) requiring voters to present an approved form of photo identification before casting a valid ballot; (2) reducing the early voting period from 17 to 10 days; (3) eliminating out-of-precinct voting; (4) eliminating same-day registration and voting; and (5) eliminating preregistration by 16-year-olds,” the ruling states.
Roberts noted that the United States was among those that challenged the law, “claiming that those measures had a discriminatory effect … and had been motivated by discriminatory intent.”
After the state’s Democratically appointed new attorney general moved to dismiss last year’s petition of certiorari, the North Carolina General Assembly argued in its objection that state law authorizes no such power.
State lawmakers claim they have express permission to retain private counsel, and the speaker and the president pro tempore of the Assembly also filed a conditional motion to intervene.
Roberts noted that the law’s private challengers filed a reply, “arguing that the speaker and the president pro tempore lack standing to intervene because North Carolina law does not authorize them to represent the state’s interests in federal court.”
“According to the private respondents,” Roberts added, “the speaker and the president pro tempore erroneously rely on a state statute that governs intervention in state proceedings.”