WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered a lower court to block two new voting restrictions in North Carolina, saying there was “no doubt” the measures would disenfranchise minorities.
North Carolina will now be required to reinstate same-day voter registration, as well as allow voters to cast ballots even if they show up to vote in the wrong precinct.
In a two-to-one ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that “whether the number is thirty or thirty-thousand, surely some North Carolina minority voters will be disproportionately adversely affected in the upcoming election” and that it was important to act now, since “there could be no do-over and no redress” once the election was over.
The appeals court ruled that the lower court “failed to adequately consider North Carolina’s history of voting discrimination” and said the new law eliminated “voting mechanisms successful in fostering minority participation.”
“The injury to these voters is real and completely irreparable if nothing is done to enjoin this law,” the ruling said.
North Carolina began considering new voting restrictions last June, the day after the Supreme Court gutted a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that protected minority voters in certain states with a history of discrimination. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) ultimately signed House Bill 589 into law in August 2013. The law eliminated a number of measures intended to protect would-be voters from being disenfranchised and required them to show photo identification at the polls.
The Justice Department joined civil rights groups in suing over the law a month later.
“The election laws in North Carolina prior to House Bill 589’s enactment encouraged participation by qualified voters,” the appeals court ruled Wednesday. “But the challenged House Bill 589 provisions stripped them away. The public interest thus weighs heavily in Plaintiffs’ favor.”
The court did, however, affirm the lower court’s decision to allow North Carolina to reduce the number of early-voting days, expand the basis for voter challenges and enact several other new restrictions.
“With respect to these provisions, we conclude that, although Plaintiffs may ultimately succeed at trial, they have not met their burden of satisfying all elements necessary for a preliminary injunction,” the court ruled.