Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit unanimously struck down voting restrictions in North Carolina for violating the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. This law was the first voting restriction passed in 2013, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. North Carolina’s H.B. 589 combined an assortment of voter suppression tactics into the worst voter law in the nation, including ending provisions that allowed people to register and vote on the same day; a seven-day reduction in the early voting period; ending preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds; a provision that allows for counting provisional ballots cast outside voters’ home precincts; and the implementation of a strict photo ID requirement. Liz Kennedy, Director of Government and Democratic Reform at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement in response to the news:
This decision is a huge victory for North Carolina’s voters and for everyone who believes in basic American values of equality and fairness in our democracy. It is a powerful repudiation of the attacks on voting rights that have spread in our country in the past several years. Not only was the discriminatory impact of this law clear to the court—the court also found that this law was passed with racially discriminatory intent to keep African American citizens from casting their votes and exercising their power to choose representatives in our self-government.
North Carolina’s attack on the voting rights of its citizens was a shameful attempt to curtail access to the ballot that could have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of African American voters in North Carolina this fall and that already prevented Americans from voting in the 2014 elections when these restrictions were in place. The 4th Circuit saw through this bald attempt to hide behind false claims of voter fraud and turned back the state’s attempt to take advantage of a weakened Voting Rights Act to manipulate voting laws and keep certain populations from voting in order to maintain their own power. These kinds of voter suppression tactics have been devastating to access and equality throughout American history, and it is deeply disturbing that they have been threatening the integrity of our democracy today. We applaud the 4th Circuit for standing up against this attack, the hard work of countless people for fighting back through the years for democratic rights and principles, and call on Congress to immediately restore the Voting Rights Act to full strength to prevent racially motivated voter suppression from continuing to threaten our country and its values.
After improving access to the ballot with common-sense tools such as same-day registration, increased early voting, preregistration of high school students, and better rules for counting provisional ballots, North Carolina saw an 8 percent increase in voter participation in 2008—the largest increase in the country. In 2012, more than 40 percent of the voters who used same-day registration were African American, despite making up only 20 percent of the state’s voting-age population, while 900,000 North Carolina citizens cast their ballots during the now-restored early voting week—70 percent of whom were African American.
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