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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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