North Carolina’s infamous voter ID bill may finally see action in the legislature next week. The House passed the bill, known as VIVA (Voter Information Verification Act), in April and since that time the legislature has focused most of its attention on fiscal matters, such as the budget.
Some think the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, that rendered Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) invalid by declaring that Section 4 was unconstitutional, will make the going easier for voter ID legislation in North Carolina. In fact, the ruling will only eliminate one step – that is the requirement for the state to ask for the federal government’s approval once the election bill is passed.
Section 5 was the part of the VRA that required covered jurisdictions to ask the federal government for permission (known as preclearance) to make any change in the election process. While the whole state of North Carolina was not covered by Section 5, forty of its counties were. Section 4 provided the formula that determined what jurisdictions would be covered by Section 5.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that:
“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 employed extraordinary measures to address an extraordinary problem. Section 5 of the Act required States to obtain federal permission before enacting any law related to voting—a drastic departure from basic principles of federalism. And §4 of the Act applied that requirement only to some States—an equally dramatic departure from the principle that all States enjoy equal sovereignty. Roberts acknowledged that “this was strong medicine, but Congress determined it was needed to address entrenched racial discrimination in voting.”
Roberts went on to write that “there is no denying, however, that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions.” Roberts noted in his opinion that since 1965 “African-American voter turnout has come to exceed white voter turnout in five of the six states originally covered by Section 5 with a gap in the sixth State of less than one half of one percent.”
Practically, the requirement to ask permission for every change that takes place in and around elections had become unmanageable. It had become common practice for a North Carolina county board of elections to be instructed by the State Board of Elections to submit a request for preclearance to the U.S. Department of Justice and then go ahead and make the change, often times receiving permission a month or two after the election had taken place.
It is worth pointing out that the Supreme Court ruling does nothing to prevent opponents of voter ID from suing North Carolina over the passage of the legislation. And sue they will. With or without Section 5, the opponents of Voter ID are prepared to sue our State just as the same liberal organizations have sued other states that have passed and implemented voter ID legislation.
The case brought before the Supreme Court: SHELBY COUNTY, ALABAMA v. HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ET AL.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion – joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
The following information was taken from the U.S. DOJ website: