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.
- Petition for a Writ of Certiorari (12/27/16)
- Brief of the United States in Opposition of Certiorari (filed 1/19/17)
- Brief of Respondents North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP in Opposition of Certiorari (1/30/17)
- Reply Brief for Petitioners North Carolina (2/13/17)
- Reply Brief for the North Carolina Attorney General (3/9/17)
- Private Respondents' Brief in Opposition to State's Objection and Conditional Motion to Add North Carolina General Assembly as Additional Petitioner (3/9/17)
- Reply Brief for the State of North Carolina, et al in Support of Conditional Motion (3/15/17)
- Order Denying Petition for Writ of Certiorari (5/15/17)
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Opinion (7/29/16)
- Joint Reply Brief for Appellants (6/14/16)
- Reply Brief for the United States as Appellant (6/14/16)
- Response Brief for Appellees (6/9/2016)
- Brief for the United States as Appellant (5/19/16)
- Opening Brief for Appellants (5/19/16)
- Opinion (4/25/16)
- Plaintiffs' Joint Proposed Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law Regarding Photo ID Claims (2/24/16)
- Defendants' Proposed Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law Regarding Photo ID Claims (2/24/16)
- Plaintiffs' Joint Proposed Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law (8/17/15)
- Defendants' Proposed Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law (8/17/15)
- Amicus Brief in Support of the Appellants filed by the Brennan Center for Justice in the Fourth Circuit (9/17/14)
- Brief of Judicial Watch, Inc. and Allied Educational Foundation as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioners in the U.S. Supreme Court (1/26/17)
- Brief of Public Interest Legal Foundation as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioners in the U.S. Supreme Court (1/30/17)
- North Carolina's Deliberate Disenfranchisement of Black Voters, David A. Graham, The Atlantic (7/29/16)
- Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down North Carolina Voter ID Requirement, Michael Wines and Alan Blinder, The New York Times (7/29/16)
- The 'Smoking Gun' Proving North Carolina Republicans Tried to Disenfranchise Black Voters, Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post (7/29/16)