May 18, 2017–Voting rights and civil rights advocates in North Carolina won a major victory this past Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last summer that struck down the 2013 NC Voter ID law. This decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ends debate on this particular, onerous law as it passed in North Carolina in 2013, and finalizes its repeal, according to The Charlotte Observer (May 15, 2017, website) and The New York Times (May 17, 2017). I applaud this decision and the final repeal of the 2013 NC voter ID law.
The end of the struggle against the NC voter ID law represents a major victory in the ongoing battle to sustain the currently relevant right to vote in North Carolina. The NC voter ID law had chipped away at that right, and the effort to diminish the right to vote in North Carolina has been defeated, at least for now.
In an earlier blog post in which I interpret and celebrate NC Governor Roy Cooper’s election, I predicted that the days remaining for that law in the federal courts were numbered, now that a Democrat occupied the governor’s office. The voter ID law had already been struck down at the 4th Circuit, but an appeal remained to the U.S. Supreme Court. That forecast of mine in my earlier blog post turned out to be accurate, now that the Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal.
Republican Party leaders in North Carolina have vowed to write and pass a new law to accomplish the 2013 law’s goals and that could pass federal judicial review. The Republican Party controls the state legislature in North Carolina, so theirs is no idle threat. Passage of such a new law would be difficult, however, in the current political climate of North Carolina, which features Gov. Roy Cooper, Democrat, as the current governor.
“…Republican legislators will continue fighting to protect the integrity of our elections by implementing the commonsense requirement to show a photo ID when we vote,” said NC House Speaker Tim Moore in a joint statement with NC Senate Leader Phil Berger, as quoted in The Charlotte Observer (May 15, 2017, website). There may well be more-to-come in North Carolina on this issue, then, but at the very least, the 2013 voter ID law has now been repealed, finally.
Leaders of the struggle against the 2013 law in North Carolina over the past few years, including the Rev. William J. Barber II, President of the NC NAACP, were thrilled at the news of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. The NAACP had filed the lawsuit against the law, and in a news conference in Raleigh, NC, when the ruling was announced, people in attendance broke into a standing ovation and a chant, “Forward together, not one step back,” according to The Charlotte Observer (May 15, 2017, website).
Nationally, according to analysis in The New York Times (May 17, 2017), the decision about the North Carolina law represents a temporary victory in a broader, ongoing struggle, according to Heather K. Gerken of Yale University, as quoted in The New York Times. More cases on similar laws relevant to voting rights, federally, are pending in front of the Supreme Court, regarding Wisconsin, Texas, and even North Carolina, in a different instance.
Although the struggle is far from over, nationally, and even in the State of North Carolina, in the long-term, this current ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the Court rejects the appeal of the federal repeal of the 2013 NC voter ID law, this final defeat of the 2013 NC law marks a major victory for the struggle to maintain voting rights in North Carolina, and nationally. I applaud this ruling and celebrate this moment in our common, shared history.