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North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory

The Brennan Center filed an amicus brief urging a federal court to block a series of North Carolina voting restrictions before the November election.

Published: May 15, 2017

In July 2013, North Caro­lina enacted 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 a strict photo iden­ti­fic­a­tion require­ment, shortened the early voting period by a week, elim­in­ated sameday 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 and are dispro­por­tion­ately more likely to util­ize same day regis­tra­tion, and are all-around the voters most affected by these changes. Like­wise, minor­ity citizens are, on aver­age, more likely to be adversely affected by strict photo ID require­ments.

Origin­ally intro­duced as a photo ID require­ment, 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 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 over the law.

After a three-year legal battle, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opin­ion in July 2016 strik­ing down HB 589 in its entirety because the court found it was passed with the intent to discrim­in­ate against the state’s African Amer­ican voters, in viol­a­tion of the Consti­tu­tion and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The opin­ion strik­ing down the racially discrim­in­at­ory law noted that the bill was designed to “target African Amer­ic­ans with almost surgical preci­sion,” elim­in­at­ing or redu­cing those voting prac­tices most commonly used by Blacks in the state. The appel­late court noted that the purpor­ted justi­fic­a­tion for passing the law, prevent­ing voter fraud, did not hold up because the state had been unable to “identify even a single indi­vidual who has ever been charged with commit­ting in-person voter fraud in North Caro­lina.”

In Decem­ber 2016, North Caro­lina sought Supreme Court review of the case. On Febru­ary 21, 2017, the newly elec­ted North Caro­lina Attor­ney General, acting on behalf of the State and the newly elec­ted Governor, moved to dismiss the peti­tion for Supreme Court review. Members of the North Caro­lina General Assembly objec­ted to the dismissal and moved to be added as a peti­tioner in the case. On May 15, 2017, the Supreme Court denied review in the case.

Legal Docu­ments

Supreme Court 

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals

District Court

Amicus Briefs

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