Voter ID Updates

Since the wave of state and lower federal courts’ rulings that struck down Voter ID laws in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and many other states last month, both Texas and North Carolina have attempted to continue litigation in order to keep their laws on the books.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down North Carolina’s law, also denied a request by that state to temporarily block their own ruling in advance of this November’s election. North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory called the laws a common sense response to voter fraud and that eliminating the laws would cause confusion.

The Fourth Circuit’s order made the same argument: intervening acts by courts, like what North Carolina was requesting, also creates confusion. The decision also noted that the state had confirmed they would be able to comply with the court’s ruling if they struck down the law. Last, the disenfranchisement generated by the Voter ID law outweighed the nebulous harm incurred to the state.

Disappointed with the ruling, Gov. McCrory filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court, again trying to stop the decision before November. Specifically, the state requested that three provisions of the law — shortening the early voting period, preventing soon-to-be eighteen year olds from registering before they come of age, and the voter ID requirement — be kept intact, criticizing the court’s intervention as the sort of federal oversight that the Supreme Court reversed in the 2013 decision Shelby County v. Holder. Additionally, all other states’ voter ID requirements could be threatened by the lower court’s ruling, argued the filing.

As an aside, noticeably absent in the emergency request was a demand to reinstate a ban on same-day registration. That means that no matter how the Court proceeds, same-day registration will survive.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who controls emergency requests from North Carolina, asked the challengers of the law — civil rights groups and the Justice Department — to respond to the application. That’s due on August 25.

Texas waited a bit longer, but filed a request to the Supreme Court to review the Fifth Circuit’s opinion from last month, which invalidated Texas’s voter ID requirement.

As election law expert Rick Hasen notes, the Court is unlikely to agree to intervene because Texas waited too long, it has already begun to accommodate the lower court ruling, and there aren’t enough votes on the Court to reinstate the law (the Court is likely to divide 4-4).

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