Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to ruling striking down NC voter ID law

Cherry blossom trees bloom on the grounds of the U.S. Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is letting stand a lower court opinion from last summer that struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law.

The law was challenged by civil rights groups and the Obama administration, which argued that the law’s photo ID requirement had a disparate impact on minority voters.

The North Carolina General Assembly had urged the court to review a lower court decision that held the law targeted “African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” The Supreme Court declined to weigh in, but Chief Justice John Roberts wrote separately to stress that the denial should not be read as an endorsement of the lower court’s decision.

The case was complicated by the fact that after the election, North Carolina’s new governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, moved to dismiss the appeal that was first filed when Republican Pat McCrory was governor, while lawyers for the General Assembly urged the court to move forward.

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“Given the blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in the court under North Carolina law, it is important to recall our frequent admonition that the denial of writ of certiorari imports no expression of opinion on the merits,” Roberts wrote in a statement.

Last summer, the Supreme Court denied a request to allow provisions of the law to go back into effect for the 2016 election. The court was split 4-4.

The Supreme Court’s order meant provisions of the law — concerning a tightening in voter ID requirements, cutbacks on early voting and the preregistration of 16-year-olds — remained off the books for November’s election.

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The ACLU applauded the Supreme Court’s decision to let a lower court opinion stand in a statement Monday.

“This law, enacted with what the appeals court called discriminatory intent and ‘almost surgical precision’ targeting African-American voters, is meeting its much-deserved demise,” Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “An ugly chapter in voter suppression is finally closing.”

And Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the court’s move “now renders North Carolina’s law null and void, and brings to a close a long and protracted battle over a law deemed one of the most egregious voter suppression measures of its kind.”

“Now is the time for North Carolina lawmakers to restore access to democracy for its citizens,” Clarke added.