Academic journal article Harvard Law Review

Election Law - Voting Rights Act - Fourth Circuit Strikes Down Provisions of Election Law Enacted with Racially Discriminatory Intent - North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP V. McCrory

Academic journal article Harvard Law Review

Election Law - Voting Rights Act - Fourth Circuit Strikes Down Provisions of Election Law Enacted with Racially Discriminatory Intent - North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP V. McCrory

Article excerpt

ELECTION LAW--VOTING RIGHTS ACT--FOURTH CIRCUIT STRIKES DOWN PROVISIONS OF ELECTION LAW ENACTED WITH RACIALLY DISCRIMINATORY INTENT.--North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. McCrory, 831 F.3d 204 (4th Cir. 2016).

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (1) (VRA)--a major triumph of the Civil Rights Movement--was enacted to protect black Americans and other persons of color from state-sanctioned disenfranchisement. (2) To guard against discriminatory voting procedures, section 5 of the VRA established a system of preclearance review, whereby designated jurisdictions were required to submit electoral reforms to either the Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for federal approval. (3) In 2013, the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder (4) invalidated the formula used to determine which jurisdictions were subject to pre-clearance review. (5) However, a little-used provision remained in place: section 3(c). (6) This "bail-in" provision allows a court to subject a jurisdiction to limited and temporary preclearance review if the court finds the jurisdiction's election reform law violates the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendment. (7)

Recently, in North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. McCrory, (8) the Fourth Circuit permanently enjoined provisions of North Carolina's 2013 election reform law for violating the ban against discriminatory intent under section 2 of the VRA (9) and the Fourteenth Amendment. (10) Yet the court refused to grant section 3(c) relief, citing the section's rare use and finding the remedy unnecessary because the discriminatory provisions were enjoined. (11) However, according to the VRA, outside circuit precedent, and the Fourth Circuit's dicta citing discriminatory intent as a perpetual problem in North Carolina's history, North Carolina State Conference's facts exemplify a situation in which section 3(c) relief is appropriate. Therefore, the Fourth Circuit's rejection of section 3(c) should not dissuade other courts from invoking the provision when faced with similar facts.

Following the Supreme Court's 5-4 Shelby County opinion, forty North Carolina jurisdictions were no longer subject to mandatory preclearance review, and North Carolina was no longer required to submit its election reform laws for federal approval. (12) Soon thereafter, Governor Patrick L. McCrory signed Session Law 2013-381, (13) which required several changes to the state's voting procedures by 2016. (14) The law accepted a limited pool of photo IDs for in-person voting, reduced the number of early voting days from seventeen to ten, eliminated same-day registration, eliminated preregistration for sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, and banned out-of-precinct provisional voting. (15) Before ratifying the law, the state legislature had requested and considered racial data showing that black Americans disproportionately relied on all of the voting procedures the law eliminated or restricted (16) and disproportionately used forms of identification the law excluded. (17)

Several separate actions, eventually consolidated in the Middle District of North Carolina, challenged the law as violative of section 2 of the VRA and the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments. (18) However, before the trial, the legislature enacted Session Law 2015-103, (19) creating an exception to the voter ID provision in cases where "reasonable impediment[s]" prevented voters from obtaining acceptable identification. (20) The district court therefore bifurcated the trial--one half concerning the amended voter ID restriction, the other half concerning the other provisions. (21)

The district court entered judgment against the plaintiffs on all claims. (22) Judge Schroeder found that "separately and cumulatively," the contested provisions did not impose a discriminatory burden on black Americans. (23) Judge Schroeder also examined the question of discriminatory intent, only to find that the state legislature had sufficient nondiscriminatory reasons--including preventing voter fraud and minimizing voting site confusion (24)--to request racial data and to pass the omnibus bill. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.