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Supreme Court Denies North Carolina Request To Enforce Voting Restrictions This Fall

The justices were split 4-4 on whether to grant Gov. Pat McCrory's request to put a lower court ruling against the restrictions on hold.

Originally posted on
Updated on

WASHINGTON — The North Carolina voting restrictions struck down by a federal appeals court earlier this summer will remain off the books for November's election, following a Supreme Court order on Wednesday.

The closely divided justices denied North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory's request to halt enforcement of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down five voting restrictions while the state seeks Supreme Court review of the decision.

Among the provisions in the law that the appeals court has ordered the state not to enforce are limits on the type of photo ID required for voting; reductions to the amount of early voting in the state; and elimination of same-day registration, out-of-precinct provisional voting, and preregistration that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to indicate an intent to register when they turned 18.

McCrory asked that the justices allow the state to enforce three of those provisions — the voter ID provision, the reduction in early voting, and the elimination of the preregistration — this election while seeking Supreme Court review of the 4th Circuit's ruling.

The Obama administration and organizations that had sued the state over the law opposed the stay request.

Justice Clarence Thomas would have granted the stay as to all three provisions.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito would have granted the stay as to all of the provisions except for the preregistration provision — which would have had little to no effect at this point on this year's eligible voters.

In other words, as to the voter ID and early voting parts of the law, there was a 4-4 split on whether to grant McCrory's request and allow the state to enforce those provisions this fall.

It takes a majority of the court to grant a stay, however, which meant that five justices would have needed to have voted for a stay in order for it to be granted.

Notably, no justice provided a so-called "courtesy" fifth vote in support of the stay request — a move that Justice Stephen Breyer did take earlier this month when a the case of a transgender student presented the same scenario: four justices willing to vote for a stay, which is all that would be needed for the court to take the appeal when the cert petition is before the justices but not enough justices to grant a stay while that appeal is decided. In such circumstances, a justice can — as Breyer did in the earlier case — provide a "courtesy" fifth vote in order to allow for a stay while the cert petition can be considered.

On Wednesday, however, none of the four other justices — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — did so, leaving the 4th Circuit's injunction against North Carolina's voting restrictions in place.

In a statement, McCrory took aim at his opponent for the governorship, Attorney General Roy Cooper, along with the "four liberal justices" voting against McCrory's request.

"North Carolina has been denied basic voting rights already granted to more than 30 other states to protect the integrity of one person, one vote through a common-sense voter ID law," McCrory said in the statement. "Even without any support from our state's attorney general, we were pleased that four justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, agreed with this right while four liberal justices blocked North Carolina protections afforded by our sensible voter laws."

CORRECTION

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory's request before the Supreme Court related only to three of the five provisions of the law at issue. This story initially stated that all five provisions were a part of his request.


Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.

Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.

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