The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand for now provisions of a new North Carolina election law that eliminate same- day registration and the casting of a provisional ballot by voters who show up at the wrong precinct.
But the high’s court’s green light for the upcoming election is not an endorsement of the law itself. It was granted on practical grounds given the closeness of the election. The law, which includes a requirement for a photo ID to vote starting in 2016 and a reduction in early voting days, faces a challenge in federal court set to be heard next summer. The entire law or portions of it could be thrown out there and the case could eventually reach the Supreme Court for a final verdict.
Prospects for its success are not good even with a conservative high court. Republicans in the General Assembly last year set out to simply add a photo ID requirement, but – encouraged by the Supreme Court’s weakening on the Voting Rights Act – overreached and added a wish list of conservative voter suppression measures to the bill.
The law’s changes also include prohibiting polls from staying open an extra hour to cope with large turnouts and allowing poll observers and challengers in each precinct, something that could lead to intimidation of elderly and young voters in particular.
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Republicans knew when they passed the law with a wink and a smile and a promise that the changes were aimed at preventing voter fraud that there just isn’t much voter fraud. And certainly not enough to justify radical changes that will disenfranchise people trying to exercise a democratic right.
State Republican leaders celebrated the go-ahead from the Supreme Court, but the case is far from over. U.S. Fourth Circuit judges have expressed doubts about its legality and at least five of the Supreme Court justices may share their concerns.