The Supreme Court has allowed North Carolina to implement a voter suppression law that eliminates same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting, potentially throwing the upcoming election into chaos. The decision overrules an appeals court decision blocking the two measures from going into effect until a full court has a chance to hear the case.
The Supreme Court’s decision will likely send state election officials scrambling to raise awareness of the changes. With same-day voter registration eliminated, North Carolinians may be required to register to vote by October 10th, the official deadline. Banning out of precinct voting will make it much harder for college students in particular to vote.
The justices who agreed to the stay did not provide any justification for why they were granting the stay. But Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, warning that the confusion could disenfranchise black voters in particular. Ginsburg pointed out that the appellate judge had concluded that the law “risked significantly reducing opportunities for black voters to exercise the franchise.” The dissent also noted that the sweeping election law changes would likely not have survived federal scrutiny before the court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act last year.
“Tens of thousands of North Carolina voters, especially African American voters, have relied on same-day registration, as well as the counting of ballots that were cast out of precinct, for years,” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, the head of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Moral Monday movement, said in a statement after the ruling.
The Supreme Court made another last-minute decision allowing Ohio to eliminate a week of early voting days last week. The court is also expected to rule soon on Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which election officials are rushing to implement and raise awareness of the sudden changes. Arkansas’ voter ID law is also in limbo as the state Supreme Court weighs blocking it for the upcoming election.
Since midterm elections already tend to see lower turnout than presidential years, last-minute election law changes could well swing the difference on certain races.