How NC Fits Into Recent Court Rulings On Voting Rights

Aug 18, 2016

Federal courts have struck down voting laws in North Carolina and several other states recently. WFAE's Michael Tomsic has this national roundup.  

The legal battle over voting rights has amped up in recent years. After the Tea Party wave of 2010, Republicans in many state legislatures started working on voter ID, early voting cuts and other changes. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013 accelerated the pace, says Jennifer Clark of the Brennan Center, which advocates for voting rights nationwide.

"That had the result such that certain states with a history of discrimination at the polls, they didn't have to get their voting laws pre-cleared," she said on WFAE's Charlotte Talks. "We have seen states that used to be under that part of the Voting Rights Act, such as North Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, put these laws into place, and they're now facing litigation."

The lawsuits often come down to the impact on African-Americans, who are more likely to lack IDs, use early voting and cast their ballots for Democrats.

Last month, federal appeals courts struck down voter ID requirements in North Carolina and Texas. The North Carolina decision went far beyond ID. Judges ruled early voting cuts, the elimination of same-day registration and other changes were passed with discriminatory intent.

Early voting cuts have also been stuck down in Ohio. Clark says rulings in Wisconsin have been more of a mixed bag.

"Wisconsin might be enforcing its strict voter ID law this November," she said. "But on the flip side, some of the cutbacks to early voting there have been struck down by a court. A court found those were intentionally discriminatory as well."

Several federal judges have noted the U.S. Supreme Court precedent for upholding voter ID. The nation's highest court approved Indiana's ID law in 2008, ruling states have a legitimate interest in trying to prevent voter fraud. That's the main argument Republicans have made for the changes.

Many attorneys have called North Carolina's voting overhaul the most sweeping in the country. It may also be the next one to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.