No North Carolina Ruling from #SCOTUS Yet: What Does It Mean?

It is the end of the work day on the East Coast, and the day has come and gone with no order from the Supreme Court on North Carolina’s request to stop the 4th Circuit’s order requiring the restoration of same day voter registration and the counting of out-of-precinct ballots which the state of NC legislature had cut in a controversial election bill passed by the Republican-dominated legislature.

I had expected a ruling by now, primarily because Chief Justice Roberts put the case on the extremely fast track for decision–requiring the challengers to the North Carolina law to file a response to North Carolina’s motion by Sunday at 5 pm.  In contrast, Justice Kagan in the Wisconsin voter id case, gave the state of Wisconsin until Tuesday to file their response.

So why the delay?

There is no way to know from the outside, but here are some possibilities, beginning with the most likely.

1. Someone is dissenting, or at least writing something to explain the decision.  In the Ohio case, issued last week, the vote was 5-4 but there was no explanation from either the (conservative) majority or the (liberal) dissenters. Someone may want to say something here, either objecting to or explaining what the Court is doing.

2. The Court decided it wants more information and decided to wait. Today the trial court held a status hearing in the case and, according to a just-filed letter from NC challengers, the state said it would be easy to implement the 4th Circuit’s order. The challengers promise a transcript and no doubt NC will object to this characterization.

3. The Court wants to decide the North Carolina and Wisconsin case together, or perhaps a dissenter wants to reference a potential inconsistent treatment of the Purcell delay issue in the two cases. That would mean waiting until the further briefing came in in the Wisconsin case.

We may have a better sense of which, if any, of this speculation is correct when the order arrives. If it comes after 5 pm Eastern tomorrow, however, I’ll be leaving for a flight and the great Justin Levitt, who will be guest blogging, will provide you with all the details.  (What, you don’t yet follow him on Twitter? Well fix that right now!)

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