A deadlocked Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to revive parts of a restrictive North Carolina voting law that a federal appeals court had struck down as an unconstitutional effort to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” The court was divided 4 to 4, with the court’s more conservative members voting to revive parts of the law. The court’s brief order included no reasoning. North Carolina’s law, which imposed an array of voting restrictions, including new voter identification requirements, was enacted by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2013. It was part of a wave of voting restrictions enacted after a 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision that effectively struck down a central part of the federal Voting Rights Act, weakening federal oversight of voting rights. Challenges to the laws have met with considerable success in recent months, and Wednesday’s development suggested that the current eight-member Supreme Court is not likely to undo those victories.
Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who is seeking re-election this fall, asserted that North Carolina had “been denied basic voting rights already granted to more than 30 states.” He noted that four justices had supported the state’s position and that “four liberal justices blocked North Carolina protections afforded by our sensible voter laws.”
The law’s critics welcomed the order.
“This decision opens the door for fair and full access to the democratic process for all voters,” said Allison Riggs, a lawyer for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians will now be able to vote without barriers. The voting booth is the one place where everyone is equal and where we all have the same say.”