Officials in North Carolina and Texas want the Supreme Court to reinstate voter ID laws after two federal appeals courts ruled they should not take effect, setting the stage for a potential Roberts Court fight over voting rights during a presidential election.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) on Monday said in a statement that the state had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay last month’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the voter ID requirement. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals released that decision in July, holding that the Republican-majority legislature had enacted the voter ID provision of HB 589 with a discriminatory intent to burden Black voters, and that it violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
McCrory said the Fourth Circuit’s ruling striking down that state’s voter ID law would create confusion during the upcoming November election.
“Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections,” McCrory said in a statement.
“The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold our state’s law and reverse the Fourth Circuit,” he continued.
North Carolina is now represented by Paul Clement, who successfully argued Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 case that gutted the Voting Rights Act. In its emergency filing, the state asked the Supreme Court to stay the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, arguing that the 2013 GOP-backed elections law “was the product not of racial animus, but of simply policy disagreements between two political parties about what voting measures are best for North Carolina,” according to SCOTUSblog.
A spokesperson for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Tuesday that Texas would appeal the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that Texas’ voter ID law, SB 14, disproportionately burdened Black and Latino voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Writing for the Fifth Circuit majority, Judge Catharina Haynes wrote, “[t]he record shows that drafters and proponents of SB 14 were aware of the likely disproportionate effect of the law on minorities, and that they nonetheless passed the bill without adopting a number of proposed ameliorative measures that might have lessened this impact.”
“The primary concern of this court and the district court should be to ensure that SB 14’s discriminatory effect is ameliorated … in time for the November 2016 election,” Haynes continued.
In response to the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos approved a plan that would allow voters without the requisite photo identification to vote in Texas in the November election, absent the Roberts Court stepping in.
Under Ramos’ order, people can vote if they sign a declaration of citizenship and present proof of residence in Texas, such as a paycheck stub, bank statement, or utility bill, according to the Texas Tribune.
Paxton’s spokesperson would not specify whether the state would file an emergency appeal in advance of its petition for writ of certiorari. In order to reinstate the voter ID law, Texas would need to file an emergency appeal and ask the Supreme Court to stay the case, as officials in North Carolina have done.
Republicans in state legislatures that have passed rigid voter ID laws have claimed that such laws are necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud. GOP-led investigations, however, have not turned up any evidence of voter fraud. A study conducted by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt found a mere 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation out of more than 1 billion votes that were cast nationwide from 2000 through 2014.