Voting Rights and Democracy

North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. McCrory

In North Carolina State Conference v. McCrory, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is considering whether a North Carolina law known as HB 589 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

 

Case Summary

Enacted shortly after the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 of the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder, HB 589 eliminates common voting practices disproportionately relied on by minority voters and requires a voter to have either a photo ID from a limited list of acceptable IDs or a difficult-to-obtain state-issued voter ID card in order to vote. The District Court nonetheless ruled for the state, concluding that HB 589 does not violate Section 2 of the VRA because it does not deny anyone the right to vote.

On May 26, 2016, Constitutional Accountability Center filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the law’s challengers and arguing that the Fifteenth Amendment grants Congress the power to prohibit laws that not only deny racial minorities the vote, but also make it more difficult for them to vote, and that is exactly what Congress did when it enacted Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. HB 589 violates Section 2 because it imposes arbitrary and discriminatory burdens on minority voters, impeding their ability to vote. While a state is entitled to protect the integrity and reliability of the electoral process, it may not do so by drawing arbitrary lines that result in racial discrimination.

On June 21, 2016, the Fourth Circuit heard oral argument in the case. On July 29, 2016, in an important victory for voting rights, the Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the District Court’s decision and held that HB 589 violates both the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. According to the Fourth Circuit, “the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent,” deliberately removing methods of voting disproportionately used by racial minorities in order to “target[] voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party.” Accordingly, the court struck down the provisions “regarding photo ID, early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration” and directed the District Court to issue an order prohibiting those provisions from being implemented.

On December 27, 2016, North Carolina filed a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court, and on May 15, 2017, the Court denied that petition.

Case Timeline

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