UPDATE: Appeals court blocks two
provisions of voting law ahead of election
By CATHERINE KOZAK
of the state election law that eliminated same-day voter registration
during early voting and counting of votes cast in the incorrect
precincts were put aside by a panel of federal judges on Wednesday, but
the last word is expected to come within a matter of days from the U.S.
the 2-1 ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the district
court decision that had denied a request for a preliminary injunction
was reversed on the same-day registration and out-of-precinct ballot
provisions, but upheld on other parts of the 2013 election law.
state today appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which
leaves some uncertainty about what the rules will be for the Nov. 4
Judge James A. Wynn Jr. from Robersonville,
N.C., who wrote the majority opinion, said that the lower court had
“failed to adequately consider North Carolina’s history of voter
discrimination” as required under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
“There can be no doubt that certain challenged measures in House Bill 589 disproportionately impact minority voters,” he wrote.
percentage of blacks who register and vote on the same day was nearly
twice that of white voters in 2012, and considerably larger than the
percentage of white voters in prior elections, according to the
Wynn also rejected the lower court’s concern about
the hardship on election officials if the law was stayed, saying that
the county poll officials could readily revert to the practices under
the previous law.
The Appeals Court held that the plaintiffs,
which include the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and other groups,
did not prove that irreparable harm would be done if the other
provisions in the law were not stopped before the election.
trial on the entire law, including a controversial provision on a
requirement to show certain identification before voting, is scheduled
for July. The Voter ID requirement does not go into effect until 2016,
so it was not an issue in the recent court rulings.
do not mean to suggest that Plaintiffs cannot prove and eventually
succeed on their challenges to all of these provisions when their case
goes to trial,” Wynn wrote.
Shortly after the ruling was issued,
state Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham and House
Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, announced that the state would
appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We are pleased the court
upheld the lion’s share of commonsense reforms that bring North
Carolina in line with a majority of other states, including the
implementation of a popular voter ID requirement supported by nearly
three quarters of North Carolinians,” they said in a press release.
we share the concern of Judge Diana Gribbon Motz – the panel’s senior
judge – that rewriting reasonable rules requiring people to vote in
their own precinct and register in advance will strain our voting
system, confuse voters and disrupt our general election that is only a
State Board of Elections spokeman Josh Lawson said
that recent upgrades to the state elections system could render the
once-automated same-day voting option inoperable.
The state is
currently trying to determine whether that part of the system that was
deactivated after the law changed can be restored.
cannot, he said, the same-day voting may have to be done manually. The
additional cost to the state and the counties is not yet known, he
Lawson said that the state is expecting that the
Supreme Court will rule quickly on the state’s request for an emergency
stay of the Appeals Court decision. But meanwhile, the election
officials are obligated to follow the Appeals Court decision.
committed to enforcing the law the best we can at this time,” he said,
“although we know there will be special burdens to the county.”
Garrison, Dare County’s elections director, said that the county poll
workers have enough time to regroup before early voting begins. But she
said everyone is still waiting for direction from the state.
“We’re not doing anything until we’re instructed to go forward,” she said.
Click here to read the opinion from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.