With lawsuits pending in federal court on sweeping changes to North Carolina elections law, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review questions about two specific provisions dealing with same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting.
The decision is just a step in a protracted legal process that began in 2013 when the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, registered Democrats and others challenged changes to voting procedures adopted by the Republican-led legislature.
Because U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder has set a trial for July 2015 to hear arguments for and against constitutional questions about the 2013 changes, the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday has little impact.
The country's highest court rejected the state's appeal of an October decision by the Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found parts of the 2013 law should be provisionally blocked while litigation continues. But there are no elections scheduled between now and the summer trial date.
Now, the cases will be heard in full in July, rather than the lawsuits being broken up piecemeal with different parts of the challenges being argued and decided at different times.
Among the issues to be argued at that trial include the requirement that North Carolina voters will have to show photo identification in 2016 before casting ballots.
The Republicans who advocated for the election-law changes argue that voter ID and other requirements are needed to prevent voter fraud. Democrats say the law and similar measures passed by other Republican-governed states are intended to make it harder for African-American, Latinos, college students and other Democrat-leaning groups to vote.
“We are pleased that the Fourth Circuit decision stands, and it’s a promising step toward the full trial on North Carolina’s voter suppression law in July,” Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair said in a statement. “We are encouraged by the Supreme Court’s decision today, committed to the fight for a just democracy in North Carolina, and confident for another victory.”
The Advancement Project is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.