The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a case seeking to reinstate North Carolina’s voter ID law, letting a lower court’s ruling blocking the law remain in place.
But Chief Justice John G. Roberts, in an unusual move, issued a statement saying the court’s refusal to hear the case should not be taken as an indication of how the justices felt about the actual merits. Instead, he suggested, it was unclear who the parties were in the case anymore, because of a change in the state’s leadership.
“Given the blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this Court under North Carolina law, it is important to recall our frequent admonition that ‘[t]he denial of a writ of certiorari imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case,’” the chief justice wrote.
The law required voters to show a photo identification, cut the number of days that early voting was allowed and eliminated same-day registration.
It was enacted in 2013 with a GOP governor and Republican-controlled state legislature.
A district court had upheld the law, but an appeals court overturned that ruling, deciding that the legislature had acted “with discriminatory intent” in passing the law.
The GOP governor lost his re-election bid last year and the new governor, Roy Cooper, and attorney general, Josh Stein, both Democrats, asked to drop the case. The legislature, still controlled by Republicans, tried to step in to defend the law.
Voting-rights advocates cheered the Supreme Court’s move, saying they hoped it would scare the state away from trying again with a new law.
“An ugly chapter in voter suppression is finally closing,” said Dale Ho, director of the voting rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
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