WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court put the final nail in the coffin of North Carolina’s strict voter-identification law on Monday, rejecting a Republican bid to revive the measure struck down by a lower court for intentionally aiming to suppress black voter turnout.
The justices left in place a July 2016 ruling by the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that voided the law passed by a Republican-controlled legislature and signed by a Republican governor.
The state’s new Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, and its Democratic attorney general, Josh Stein, had told the justices they wanted to drop the state’s appeal of the 4th Circuit ruling. But the Republican-led state legislature said it should be able to intervene in the case to defend the law. The appeal was filed by Cooper’s predecessor, Republican Pat McCrory, before the Democrat took office in January.
Chief Justice John Roberts, citing a “blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this court under North Carolina law,” wrote a two-page statement noting that the confusion over who represents the state was a reason not to hear the dispute.
The North Carolina law required that certain forms of government-issued photo identification cards be presented by voters, allowing for example driver’s licenses, passports and military identification cards but not public assistance cards used disproportionately by minorities in North Carolina. Other provisions included cutting early voting days and ending same-day voter registration.
The law, one of a number of similar statutes passed by Republican-controlled states, was opposed by civil rights groups, including the state chapter of the NAACP, as well as Democrats.
Republicans have said the laws are needed to prevent voter fraud. Democrats have said the laws are voter suppression measures intended to make it harder for groups that tend to back Democratic candidates, including black and Hispanic voters, to cast ballots.
The NAACP and individual voters sued to block it, arguing it disproportionately burdened black and Hispanic voters, who are more likely than white voters to lack acceptable forms of identification.
The appeals court found that the North Carolina law’s provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision” and “impose cures for problems that did not exist,” concluding that the Republican-led legislature enacted the measure “with discriminatory intent.”
North Carolina passed the law weeks after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June 2013 to eliminate a requirement that states with a history of discrimination receive federal approval before changing election laws.