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Supreme Court Declines Republican Bid To Revive North Carolina Voter ID Law

A man votes in November in Durham, N.C. The U.S. Supreme Court had refused to reinstate strict voter restrictions in time for Election Day.

The U.S. Supreme Court has once again declined to reinstate North Carolina's strict voter ID law, which was struck down last year after a court ruled it was intentionally designed to stop African-Americans from voting.

The nation's highest court refused to consider an appeal by North Carolina Republicans, NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

"Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the court's refusal to consider an appeal did not signify an opinion on the merits of the case," Fessler says.

It's not the first time the Supreme Court has considered an appeal over the voter ID law, which was one of the country's strictest. It was put in place after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, clearing the way for states with a history of discrimination to craft new voting laws without federal oversight.

Michael Tomsic of member station WFAE wrote last fall about the lengthy battle over North Carolina's law, which was ostensibly meant to combat voter fraud:

"That fight began in 2013, when the state made cuts to early voting, created a photo ID requirement and eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and preregistration of high school students.

"More than half of all voters there use early voting, and African-Americans do so at higher rates than whites. African-Americans also tend to overwhelmingly vote for Democrats."

Those provisions of the law were struck down in July 2016 by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In its ruling, the appeals court said the law was intentionally designed to discriminate against black people. North Carolina legislators had requested data on voting patterns by race and, with that data in hand, drafted a law that would "target African-Americans with almost surgical precision," the court said.

The state appealed to the Supreme Court, which refused to reinstate the law in time for elections.

The legal drama continued, as David Boraks of WFAE reports:

"The state and then-Gov. Pat McCrory appealed the 4th Circuit decision to the Supreme Court. As the Supreme Court discussed whether to hear the case, the state under a new Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, asked to withdraw the appeal."

That is the appeal the high court will not be hearing, it announced Monday.

Voting rights have been making headlines again this month, after President Trump announced the creation of a presidential commission to investigate voter fraud.

"Numerous independent investigations have concluded that voter fraud exists but is extremely limited in scope," Fessler reported last week.

Critics said the commission would justify voter suppression efforts, while state election officials are worried it could "divert attention from other serious concerns, such as aging equipment and the threat of hacking," she wrote.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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