With a tie vote in a closely watched case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed a series of voting restrictions in North Carolina to remain blocked ahead of November’s elections. The court handed down an order denying the request by the state to allow it to implement some of the restrictive provisions — provisions that had been struck down and deemed discriminatory in their intent by a panel of judges on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month.
The order means the appeals court ruling will stand at least through November, while signaling that the Supreme Court is likely split on the larger issue of the legality of the restrictions.
Wednesday’s order stems from a legal challenge brought against the state by voting rights group as well as the Department of Justices for provisions in the omnibus voting legislation passed by GOP North Carolina lawmakers in 2013. The appeals court found in an opinion released in late July that five provisions of the law — a photo IDs requirement, a cutback to early voting, the elimination of same day registration, a ban of out-of-precinct voting and a prohibition on pre-registration of young voters — “disproportionately affected African Americans” and targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
North Carolina had asked the Supreme Court for an emergency stay on the ruling so it could implement some of the invalidated provisions — specifically its photo ID requirement, the early voting limits and the pre-registration ban — for November’s election. According to Wednesday’s order, the conservative justices were willing to side with the state on at least some of North Carolina’s request. However, the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February has robbed the conservative bloc its crucial fifth vote necessary to halt the appeals court decision.