Breaking and Analysis: Supreme Court Denies Cert. in North Carolina Voting Case; Chief Justice Issues Statement

Today the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a Fourth Circuit decision holding that a North Carolina voting law (one I’ve called the strictest set of voting rules rolled into one law passed since at least the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act) could not be enforced because it was passed with racially discriminatory intent.

As I have explained in this forthcoming paper, the 4th Circuit used partisan discrimination as a proxy for race discrimination in determining that North Carolina had racially discriminatory intent. This controversial theory is an important one going forward in dealing with laws passed by white Republican legislatures in Southern states for self-interested reasons. The case is so important that I had urged (in Slate) the new Democratic governor and AG in North Carolina to withdraw the cert petition. They then tried to do so, and the Legislature fought against it.

In his separate statement regarding the cert denial, the Chief Justice did not say anything on the merits, but indicated that the fight over whether the cert. petition could be withdrawn was behind the Court’s decision not to hear the case, and that this does not mean he agrees with the decision on the merits:

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.” United States v. Carver, 260 U. S. 482, 490 (1923).

These days at the Supreme Court, getting the Court not to hear a voting case is a significant victory. While the Court could well issue an adverse decision in the future, the 4th Circuit opinion stays on the books for now, and it has already been relied upon to hold other strict voting laws illegal (as in the Pasadena Texas case, as described in my forthcoming paper).

So to summarize: Whew!

[This post has been updated.]

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