North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has decided to ratchet up the impact of the voter suppression law the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected as discriminatory against black voters. Now the governor is asking to revive the law in a way that will make voting harder for all voters.
McCrory on Monday asked U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to reinstate key portions of the voting law struck down by the Fourth Circuit’s ruling pending the outcome of an appeal. The request says the ruling came too close to the November election and will disrupt the voting process by suspending the photo ID requirement and allowing an extra week of early voting. Roberts is likely to refer the request to the full court, which is now ideologically split 4-4. Five votes would be needed to reinstate the law.
Oddly, McCrory took 17 days to announce that the need for reinstatement was an emergency. That delay may sink the request even with conservative justices. Not only is the request late, but it is in itself disruptive of the voting process. In the weeks since the ruling, state and local boards of elections have been setting more early voting days and designating voting sites, and poll workers have gone through training on how to conduct elections without a photo ID requirement.
If McCrory were to get what he wants, voting in North Carolina will be put through another round of disarray and confusion. The result inevitably would be long lines for a high-turnout presidential election, voters uncertain whether they need an ID and poll workers untrained in how to enforce the rejected law that suddenly would be back in force.
Anyone with a decent respect for the democratic process – indeed, anyone with a decent respect for the voting experience of his fellow citizens – would let the Fourth Circuit ruling stand for now and decide whether and when to appeal after the election.
The governor is saying the opposite. He’s promoting confusion and delays at the polls. And he’s doing it by hiring attorney Paul Clement, a former solicitor general of the United States who typically charges more than $1,000 per hour. Taxpayers will get Clement’s bill for this belated emergency request on top of the $9 million the governor and Republican legislative leaders already have spent paying private lawyers to defend their often indefensible laws.
McCrory may see disrupting the November election as his last chance of winning it. But he is not simply a candidate. He is the governor of all the people and should put the voters’ greater interest before his own.