Voter ID appeal denied, but issue is far from decided

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The general assembly can go back and write a new law centered around voter ID.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal to reinstate North Carolina's voter identification law, which a lower court said targeted African-Americans "with almost surgical precision."

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The justices on Monday left in place the lower court ruling striking down the law's photo ID requirement and reduction in early voting.
The situation was complicated when Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein tried to withdraw the appeal, which was first filed when Republican Pat McCrory was governor.

RELATED: Cooper, Stein ask Supreme Court to end voter ID review

"Today's announcement is good news for North Carolina voters," Cooper said Monday. "We need to be making it easier to vote, not harder - and the Court found this law sought to discriminate against African-American voters with 'surgical precision.' I will continue to work to protect the right of every legal, registered North Carolinian to participate in our democratic process."

The North Carolina NAACP was the lead organizational plaintiff on the case. Monday, they hailed the news.

"Today we experience a victory for justice that is unimaginably important for African Americans, Latinos, all North Carolinians, and the nation" said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the NC NAACP.

Chief Justice John Roberts said the political situation created uncertainty over who is authorized to seek review of the lower court ruling.

The dispute is similar to the court fight over Texas' voter ID law, also struck down as racially discriminatory.

Republicans in both states moved to enact new voting measures after the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a provision of the federal Voting Rights Act that had required them to get advance approval before changing laws dealing with elections.

North Carolina Republican leaders responded to the decision Monday and vowed to continue their efforts.

"It is unconscionable that Roy Cooper and Josh Stein - who ignored state law and flouted their conflicts of interest to kill voter ID in North Carolina - have now caused the vast majority of voters who support voter ID to be denied their day in court," said Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore in a joint statement. "In light of Chief Justice Roberts' statement that the ruling was not based on the merits of voter ID, all North Carolinians can rest assured that Republican legislators will continue fighting to protect the integrity of our elections by implementing the commonsense requirement to show a photo ID when we vote."

Voters, civil rights groups and the Obama administration quickly filed lawsuits challenging the new laws. The Trump administration already has dropped its objections to the Texas law.

NC NAACP commemorates 51st anniversary of Voting Rights Act

Shortly before Trump took office in January, the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to reject the North Carolina appeal.

When the law passed, North Carolina Republicans said voter ID is a sound requirement to increase the integrity of elections. But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the state provided no evidence of the kind of in-person voter fraud the ID mandate would address. The Richmond, Virginia-based court said the law was enacted with intentional bias against black voters. The law was amended in 2015 to include a method for people unable to get a photo ID to still vote.

"Much like the poll taxes and literacy tests of the Jim Crow era, North Carolina's shameful Voter ID law is nothing more than racial discrimination in the guise of voter protection," said Congressman David Price, D-NC. "Rather than erecting unconstitutional barriers to participation in our democracy, the General Assembly should be making it easier for all eligible North Carolinians to make their voices heard at the ballot box."

Following the appellate ruling, the state asked the high court to allow the challenged provisions to remain in effect in November's election. The justices rejected the request by virtue of a 4-4 tie on most of the challenged provisions, with the four more conservative justices supporting the state's bid.

RELATED: U.S. Supreme Court refuses to restore NC voter ID, reduce early voting days

Roberts cautioned Monday that the rejection of the appeal is not a comment on the court's view about the substance of the law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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