Supreme Court Won’t Hear North Carolina Voter Suppression Appeal

In denying a writ of certiorari to those who want to defend North Carolina’s discriminatory 2013 election law, the Supreme Court pointedly refused to remark on the merits of the appeal. But we can surmise a couple of things.

First, the Court previously divided 4-4 when it was asked to overturn the 4th District Court of Appeals and allow North Carolina to use its law in the 2016 election. Without a ninth Justice to break the tie, the appeals court ruling stood. Now the court has Neal Gorsuch, presumably a fifth conservative vote, but to grant certiorari, there only needs to be four Justices in favor. So, it appears that there were no more than three conservatives who were willing to hear this appeal.

While the fate of the law and the question of whether it was too late to change it before the election are two different questions, it look like at least one conservative abandoned the overall cause of voter disenfranchisement sometime between last summer and today.

I suppose we can take some small measure of comfort from that. The 4th District had ruled that the law was designed with ‘almost surgical precision’ to deny African-Americans their full voting power. That all the conservatives on the Supreme Court were nonetheless inclined to let the law stand in place at least through the November election was an indication of how widespread hostility to the black vote is within the conservative movement.

It’s not entirely clear how to draw the line between racist intent and naked self interest. For example, one provision of the law banned the practice of preregistering seventeen year olds to vote so they would be eligible when they turned eighteen. That seems designed to suppress the youth vote, presumably because surveys indicated they lean to the left. Of course, surveys also indicated that blacks would vote heavily for Democratic candidates. At a minimum, the intent is to craft a set of rules that will result in fewer votes for the opposing side. But the court went further and stated that the intent was discriminatory. Voter ID laws are a convenient way of confusing the issue, but they work primarily because the universe of people who lack a state-issued photo identification card skews to the left. By suppressing their votes, the Republicans do better in elections without having to persuade anyone to support them, and without having to expend all the effort and money that goes into those efforts.

We could hope that these rulings would settle the matter, but the president is setting up a commission to explore widespread voter fraud that Trump claims cost him the popular vote. His theory belongs in the same category as his theories on President Obama’s long-form birth certificate. It’s not even a good conspiracy theory because a first grader could quickly conclude that it makes no sense. But we as a nation apparently have to go along for the ride with the president’s insanity because, what choice do we have?

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