North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory (Amicus Brief)
In July 2013, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed a sweeping omnibus elections bill — which passed the legislature along party lines and without the vote of a single African-American legislator — into law. The bill, known as HB 589, created strict photo identification requirements, shortened the early voting period by a week, eliminated same-day voter registration, and eliminated pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds, among other restrictive changes.
These changes will have an outsized impact on the state’s growing African-American population. Evidence has shown that African-American voters in North Carolina are more likely to vote during early voting than white voters, are disproportionately more likely to utilize same day registration, and are all-around the voters most affected by these changes. Likewise, same day registration proved to be very popular among African-Americans voting in the 2008 and 2012 elections.
Originally introduced as a photo ID law, the bill was transformed by North Carolina legislative leaders into a far more encompassing bill immediately in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County, which rendered Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act inoperable. Before that decision, North Carolina one of the states that was required to “preclear” statewide voting law changes with the Department of Justice. Because the law has a disproportionate effect on minority voters, it very likely would not have been precleared under Section 5.
The Department of Justice, the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, and various affected other groups and individuals promptly sued the state, alleging that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it places a disproportionate burden on African-American voters when compared to white voters in the state. Some parties also argue that the law violates Constitution by placing an undue burden on the right to vote, as well as various other constitutional claims.
With the exception of strict photo ID to vote, the bill is slated to be in effect for the November 2014 election. Because a full trial on the merits is not scheduled until July 2015, in May 2014 plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction, asking the district court to block the changes for this year’s election. After holding a four-day evidentiary hearing, the district court denied the motion for preliminary injunction in August 2014. Plaintiffs appealed to the Fourth Circuit, which agreed to hear an expedited appeal of the denial of preliminary injunction.
In its amicus brief with the Fourth Circuit, the Brennan Center outlines that one of the goals of Section 2 is to uncover veiled racial discrimination in elections laws passed under the guise of electoral integrity. The brief argues that North Carolina’s massive changes to its voting laws, which occurred only after African Americans started turning out to vote in large numbers, is just such a law. The Brennan Center’s brief also argues that, in refusing to enjoin the law in advance of the November 2014 election, the district court failed to recognize the gravity and irreversible harm caused by losing the right to vote.
The Fourth Circuit held oral arguments on September 25, 2014, and issued its opinion on October 1, 2014. The Circuit restored same-day registration and out of precinct voting for the 2014 election. However, the Circuit declined to enjoin the cutbacks to early voting, the soft roll-out of voter ID, and the elimination of pre-registration. Following the Fourth Circuit’s decision, North Carolina filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court to stay the Circuit’s mandate, which the Supreme Court granted on October 8, 2014. Accordingly, HB 589 will be in effect for November 2014.
- United States’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction
- Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction
- North Carolina’s Memorandum in Opposition to Motions for Preliminary Injunction
- United States’ Reply in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction
- Plaintiffs’ Reply in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction
- District Court Order Denying Motion for Preliminary Injunction
- Appellant's Brief
- Appellee's Brief
- Amicus Brief filed by the Brennan Center for Justice
- Amicus Brief filed by Judicial Watch, Inc., et al.
- Statement of the Views of the United States in Response to the Court's Invitation
- Fourth Circuit Court's Opinion
- Emergency Application for Stay of Fourth Circuit Mandate
- Response Brief to Emergency Application
- Supreme Court Order Granting Stay
- NC “Monster” Election Law Disenfranchised More Than 450 Primary Voters, Report Finds, Sue Sturgis, The Institute for Southern Studies (September 11, 2014)
- Hundreds of Voters are Disenfranchised by North Carolina’s New Voting Restrictions, Ari Berman, The Nation (September 10, 2014)
- Federal Court to Hold Hearing September 25 on North Carolina Voting Law, Michael Hewlett, Winston-Salem Journal (September 9, 2014)
- NAACP Appeals Ruling to let 2014 Elections Proceed Under New Voting Rules, Anne Blythe, News and Observer (August 21, 2014)
- North Carolina Passes the Country’s Worst Suppression Law, Ari Berman, The Nation, (July 26, 2013)
- Appeals Court Blocks Some N.C. Voting Restrictions, Steve Benen, MSNBC (October 1, 2014)
- North Carolina Asks Supreme Court to Intervene in Voting Rights Fight, Maya Rhodan, Time (October 4, 2014)
- Supreme Court Allows North Carolina's Tighter Voting Rules, Brent Kendall and Jess Bravin, The Wall Street Journal (October 8, 2014)
- The Supreme Court Approves the Country's Worst Voting Restrictions in North Carolina, Ari Berman, The Nation (October 8, 2014)
- Maneuvering Persists After Court Blocks New Voter Conditions, Erik Eckholm, The New York Times, (October 10, 2014)